As a parent I have had many conversations with parents over the years. Most don’t stick with me but one in particular did. We were discussing what time during the day each of our kids does their homework. I explained that when our kids get home from school they have a small snack (they both eat lunch before noon) and then they get their homework done. The only thing that interferes with homework is each of their weekly music lessons and homework is done as soon as we return home from the lesson. No play or chores happen until homework is done. Ben does his homework in his room because he has a nice big desk with his computer at it and he often (as he is getting older) needs to use his computer to either do research or to type a paper. Rachel does not have the luxury of a large desk so she does her homework in the kitchen at the table. This also works out nicely because it keeps them on different sides of the house; they tend to distract each other if they are within earshot of one another. She does also have a computer in her room but it is more for her amusement at this point as she is not doing much research in third grade! She uses it as her own personal jukebox!

This mom shared with me their routine of fighting about how long it takes to do homework and how late into the evening it is getting completed. They are allowed to do their homework in front of their televisions in their rooms and it takes them “forever”. I was so surprised by this that all I could say was “Uh…no we don’t let the kids have TVs in their rooms and they aren’t allowed to turn on a TV until all their responsibilities have been taken care of.”

This has boggled my mind ever since. I didn’t have a TV in my room until I was a teenager and by then I only watched it when I had nothing else to do. Now, I don’t think this was a conscious decision on my mom’s part to keep a TV out of my room. We were just dirt poor and only had the one TV that was in the living room. In all fairness though, I did have run of the house most of the time since I was my mother’s only child and I lived with her for most of my childhood. And I do love to watch TV!

I started thinking: allowing a child to have a TV in their bedroom and watch, basically, whatever they want can’t possibly be a good thing. I mean, it is very obviously causing the issue that this mom is having with her kids and their poor homework habits but it must go deeper than that! A quick search on google brought me many many articles to sift through.

The one that caught my attention the most was a short introduction to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The last sentence reads: “Sufficient evidence exists to warrant a ban on junk-food or fast-food advertising in children’s TV programming. Pediatricians need to ask 2 questions about media use at every well-child or well-adolescent visit: (1) How much screen time is being spent per day? and (2) Is there a TV set or Internet connection in the child’s bedroom?”

Parents: Has your pediatrician ever asked you either of these questions or anything close to it? In my experience a yearly well-child visit is pretty quick and has only been what I would consider a general physical and immunizations if they are due. We have never been asked about anything other than the kids’ physical health. I do love the idea of banning junk-food and fast-food advertisements on kids programming! There is a lot of statistical proof that a lot of poor food choices happen while sitting in front of the television.

A lot of the other articles that I read dealt with statistics on how much screen-time a child is getting each day and the time of day that they are watching. As in, are they watching right before bed? Many parents use TV time as a calm down time before bed and according to the Seattle Children’s Hospital, “Children were more likely to have trouble falling asleep, have more nightmares, and more awakenings if in the 1 hour prior to going to bed, they watched TV, violent or not.” I can tell you that that is how we did it in my Dad’s house!

Here is what we do in our house: (and I am not saying we are doing it 100% right but after all the reading I did I am feeling pretty good about our TV habits). As I said before the kids come home and take care of their responsibilities, including homework, bedroom upkeep, practice their prospective instruments and then they have free time till dinner. In their hour/hour-and-a-half of free time they very rarely (but it happens) choose to watch TV. They do usually spend time on their computers playing a game somewhere in that free time and I do consider that screen-time. When it’s nice out they usually make their way outside, but it is their time to do what they want with. Then dinner and after dinner they each shower. While they are waiting for their turn they will sometimes watch TV sometimes not. After showers it should be 8pm and from 8-9 its reading time and 9pm is lights out!  They both sleep in complete darkness with their doors closed and the only time we hear from them in the middle of the night is if they drank too much water before bed and have to pee! They have both always been great sleepers and I never really thought about why we haven’t had trouble with that but now I am thinking that we had the right kind of routine down from the beginning and that played a big role in their good sleep health.

I am a big fan of television, even with the knowledge that it does more harm then good. The important thing to remember as an adult is that its all for entertainment! It is more difficult for kids to see the difference. But knowing what harm the TV can do during the school age years makes me happy that we have never put TV’s in our kids rooms.