Monday, April 8, 2013

Dear Olive,
On my first day of high school, the same thing occurred in a few of my classes. As the teacher went through the names calling the role, they stopped at mine and looked up at me. Ah, Kellie, yes. I think I met your Mum last night at the P&C meeting. She was a formidable force when it came to standing up for what she believed in, apparently. (Can you imagine how popular I was in the playground as a Year 7, when it got out it was MY Mum petitioning to remove junk food from the canteen?)

A few weeks back, I went to my first parent-teacher night at your little kindy. There, I don't have to fight the good fight. There, it's the principal trying to ban something; tv watching in her students. It generated quite a heated discussion amongst the parents on the night, and it's something I've thought a lot about since. What is the place in our lives for tv, ipads, computer games? And what is the impact of their use on you? Basically, your teachers belief is that watching tv restricts the imagination of the kid. Full stop. And she is vehemently opposed to any toys and paraphernalia associated with commercial tv shows.

It's certainly given us something to think about, in terms of your screen use. We didn't introduce tv until after you were two, and it's not an everyday thing (right now you're in a phase where you barely watch any), but it probably averages out to a couple of hours of screen time every week, including a few apps and games you like to play on the iphone. An amount which I suppose I've seen as fairly inconsequential, in the whole scheme of your full, active, imaginative life.

On the flip side, tvs and computers and iphones play a pretty large part in my own life. Most nights, Shane and I sit on the lounge and watch the news, 7:30 Report, and whatever comes on after that on the ABC until we go to bed. (Sadly, it appears I'm turning into my parents.) And we both zone out on the computer and iphone for large chunks of our day, too. When I was a kid, we had fairly restricted access to tv. We weren't really allowed to watch it during the week, but we could tape shows to watch on the weekend. (I used to tell my parents I was going to study in our old caravan ... and then secretly watch neighbours and home and away on the old black and white tele in there.) While we had a computer, there was only one, and it had to be shared between all five of us. (Admittedly, we were all addicted to tetris.) 

Your teacher has asked everyone at kindy to pledge a screen free week. And she wants us parents to get involved, so we can make it a movement to go beyond the week. A movement for change, to return to a natural childhood. She certainly puts forward a pretty convincing argument for it.

How do tv and screens fit into your family life? Want to join us for a screen free week, too?

Photos: You came up with the list of things we can do instead of playing with screens. Some recent drawings - a family portrait with all your cousins on the brown paper bag, and jellyfish upon jellyfish upon jellyfish. And your name! (Well, most of it.) It pops up everywhere these days.


Jane S said...

Great post Kellie. We have two young children (6 & 3) and we do not have a television or even a DVD player in the house, full stop. Of course we have a computer, mobile phones etc. We don't even miss it and our children don't even question it. When we go 'away' watching tv is a novelty and we all really enjoy it. It is all about balance I guess isn't it?

Ellen Arthur said...

It's funny because our tv just broke yesterday and had to be taken away for repairs today. It makes such a difference when the TV isn't an option! I found myself connecting with my family so much more than when there are a constant string of favourite TV shows.
:) Ellen xx

Victoria said...

Good post, currently my 5 yr old does watch more than she should, while I cook she watches cartoons & maybe I should really make her cook with me instead.

Rin said...

What a revolutionary teacher. Good on them!
We don't have tv but do watch DVDs on the computer and iview. I try to make tv a last resort for when naptime doesn't happen or Lucy needs some serious quiet time but sometimes its easy to watch a bit too much.

It's great to be able to choose what we watch as well. I know I'd watch so much trash if I had all the channels.

Lila Wolff said...

It's an interesting issue and one that we spend time weighing up every now and again.
The thing for me is balance. We don't have the TV plugged in to the aerial so we control what we watch (mostly ABC via iView)and aren't bombarded by advertising. I don't buy character licensed clothes and accessories.
But screens are a fact of life and I think cutting them out completely (at least when they are older) potentially puts kids at a disadvantage. Balance has to be taught slowly over time and so I'm skeptical about blanket bans on things.
That being said while they are little time away from screens is definitely positive.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow, I love this! We don't allow our daughter to watch much tv, but I definitely think technology today does take away from our children's childhood. In fact, my husband and I are thinking of cancelling our cable TV package this week. This post couldn't of come at a more fitting time.

Nell said...

Such an interesting post Kellie. We don't watch any TV with Josephine - she once watched 10 minutes of Toy Story 2, and occasionally catches a little bit of what I was watching during her nap time, when she wakes up, but other than that sport with Ben is the only thing she watches.

At this age I personally don't see any need for cartoons and kids programs, and to be honest Josephine has no attention span for it anyway, so it doesn't matter.

I am wondering about the use of other technologies though. It's crazy that Phiney knows to swipe her finger across my iPhone screen to look at the pictures. I only just learnt how to use it properly!

I'd love to hear how you guys do - what a great teacher to have at Kindy though. And it sounds like your Mum was awesome too xx

Accidental Lentil... said...

What a great teacher! We have no tv but we do watch iview and some series on the computer at night. Ish is just two, and i intended for her to be 100% screen-free, but once i got pregnant and had some days when i could not get off the couch or stop vomiting, I introduced a bit of tv. However she only ever watched playschool, nothing else, and these days she watches it less than once a week. That could change once the newborn arrives!!

My main worry at the moment is the amount of time she sees her dad engrossed in his smartphone. I'm thinking he's the one who needs to take the pledge!

Great post, love the comments too.


Miss-B said...

What a fantastic teacher! I think limited screen time for little ones is sensible. 2 hours a week seems fine to me. As a kid growing up I remember I got to watch playschool or seasame street but never both. I had to choose every day. That's all I was really allowed to watch.

One thing I did miss out on was watching movies / videos / dvds as a slightly older child though. As a result - I don't "get" a lot of pop culture references in movies nowadays or comedy routines. With the benefit of hindsight that's the one thing I would change ... maybe as a 10 year old or something I would have liked to have a Friday night movie night with my parents or something so that as an adult I'd actually have watched things like lord of the rings etc (which I didn't watch until I was 26) and I've still never watched star wars.

Unknown said...

This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. I have a 5 month old daughter (who's also Olive and is the reason a google search brought me to your blog). While pregnant I had this idea that I wouldn't want my child watching any television, but now that she's here I've changed my mind a little. TV is a big part of mine and her Dad's lives, so it would be a bit unfair to completely ban TV for her. We're not the kind of family who puts the TV on at 6 and watches whatever commercial dribble is on, but we do get obsessed with certain shows and we are known to (or were know to, before baby came along) have all day The Wire or Mad Men binges. And also, I don't believe that TV restricts the imagination. As I child I loved shows like The Muppets, Fraggle Rock, My Little Pony, Care Bears, etc, and if anything it encouraged me to imagine different worlds and imaginary friends. I'm definitely not going to sit my Olive in front of the TV all day, but I think there is a lot of joy to be gotten from TV and Movies - we're just going to be picky about what she watches.

Mama Smith said...

We never did any TV... until I got pregnant again and was so ill with morning sickness that it really was a life saver. Now that the door is open, the little guy does watch a few hours a week. I am also not a fan of most commercial characters, but he loves Curious George, and that one doesn't drive me nuts so I let it slide and enjoy the break every now and then. I certainly think it can be a crutch that is used too often, but sometimes I just need a sliver of time to do work or jump in the shower... and I'm grateful for the option!

Xox Lilly

Katrina@capturingmoments said...

Such a hot topic with Mammas I think. To be honest, if what they watch and how much they watch is controlled I don't have a problem with screen time. My boys watch Mr Maker and become so inspired and pumped to get creative and they usually follow an episode with a new craft project...and likewise with Play School, it actually encourages their imagination with new play ideas, fun music (which my boys LOVE, music is such a big part of their lives)... etc. etc. Some shows are pointless, but I make conscience decisions of what they watch, what they will benefit from and what will foster their imagination and creativity. Xxx

Unknown said...

My daughter didn't watch much TV before she was two except for In the Night Garden on the plane on those long flights. But now she loves Peppa Pig, Playschool and the odd DVD (Wiggles, Totoro)

It's definitely something parents need to manage as it's easy to fall in tot he trap of just putting the TV on for them everyday!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like our Mummas were similar Kellie, I was the kid in year 1 eating tabouli for lunch whilst everyone was lining up for tuck shop.
I love the idea of being screen free, we have only just let our Olive start watching TV at the age of 2, she doesn't play with our phones or use any apps. I am finding it hard to judge the balance, Baby Daddy is in IT and I am online for work. We are going with everything in moderation xx

Megan.K. said...

It is a tricky one to model for your kids when we are all online, and therefore in front of screens!
We have no tv, haven't had for years, but my girls get to watch ABC shows on iview and play some computer or iPhone games.
It can get out of control if I let it, so I need to set boundaries, but I find all three of my girls have imagination in overload and are all very creative... So I don't think the screen time I allow is detrimental.
Do agree with no commercial TV. It's rubbish most of the time and the marketing to kids is horrible... So I guess I agree there with your teacher.
Be interested to see how it goes with Olive!

Levin said...

Oh how I miss these drawings.

Nikki Fisher said...

Wow Kellie I really admire the teacher at Olive's kindy. I think many parents underestimate the impact of all the screen activity that children can too easily take part in. I would love to get rid of the tv out of our house but if I am completely honest the thought of not having it there for those moments when I want an hour of uninterrupted time to complete something makes me feel anxious! Tv is limited here, absolutely none for my school age boy during the week and then on Friday we go to the DVD library and borrow a couple of movies for the weekend. My kinder age boy would watch half to one hour a few times during the week. We don't do phones, computers or ipads for kids I want to delay that for as long as absolutely possible. We were in a cafe recently and my 7 year old was watching a toddler play on his mum's phone, my son asked why he isn't allowed to do that. My reason was because we were at the cafe together and I wanted him to talk with us not be looking at a screen he accepted that. I agree with other commenters it is difficult when as adults we spend time in front of screens for our work and our children see this, the saying we have in our house is that screens are tools not toys.

::The Beetle Shack:: said...

Kell, I read this post when I saw it pop up on facebook and have been meaning to get back to it!

I seriously LOVE the idea of no screens at all. I sincerely wish i had it in me.

A few weeks back I wrote a post about reducing Zeph's toy's - Reducing (almost eliminating) 'screen time' was part of that. We don;t have a tv but Zeph watches iview and dvd's sometimes.

We have cut out iview all together and now he watches David Atenbrough at rest time for about an hour. It;s a time that I really relish, as does Zeph. It's time to be quiet and still and maybe nod off if we are lucky.

It is something to be conscious of for sure.

You've got spirit kellie, I admire it

xo em

Henna | HENNA BLOSSOM BLOG said...

This is something I've been thinking about lately. I don't think screen time is "evil" but it really can so easily creep up and take over more hours of our life than we realize.

I didn't think about it much, but after having my son I became much more conscious of it.

As kids, my parents only let us watch half an hour on Saturday mornings and a movie every now and again (ha, usually the same rotation of old black and white Hollywood films). I don't know how much of an effect that had on me...but I know that we lacked American pop culture savvy (which I was VERY self conscious of as a kid) but very thankful for as an adult. I formed my own ideas of the world and am still QUITE the dreamer with a ridiculous imagination. :) Who knows if they're related? :)

Henna | HENNA BLOSSOM BLOG said...

...but then again, I'm addicted to my iphone. sigh.

ElizabethMJaocb said...

this is always a fascinating topic for me. we do allow tv, although i feel we are somewhat strict about it. my boys are 5 and 7 and i am amazing by the amount of time (and knowledge) some of their friends have on the tv shows and video games. i always set a time and when the times up (usually 20 minutes) we go to another activity together. its not me telling them to turn it off, it's me saying, "let's all go do this." every so often we have a tv free week and it's so refreshing.

as a blogger i constantly struggle with social media. i have learned to just step away because i feel that twitter, IG, Facebook can have such a negative impact. and i certainly don't want my children to see me on my phone all the time. i made it a point to put the phone away so i am not tempted.

tv is not bad, but like everything, moderation is the key ;) sorry to ramble on!

Anonymous said...

This post has really inspired and challenged me. I have come to rely on the television to free me up to get my housework and cooking done. I might take the 1-week pledge myself.


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