How do we set reasonable limits around TV watching?

My son did not watch TV in his early years, but he is now three-and-a-half and begs for it every day even though it is not a common activity in our household. Short of getting rid of the TV, how do we set reasonable limits around TV time and stop the begging? We have tried limiting it to weekends only, so he knows when to anticipate it, but it hasn’t been effective. We are worried about how this will translate to “device” time as he gets older.

You are right to limit screen time of any kind for your child.  Screen time (TV, internet, video games) is related to all sorts of problems. Make specific times for TV and then be with him during the TV time. It is easy to use it as a babysitter. It is better to use it as family time. You can talk about the programs. Even at his age,  you can help him understand things like advertisements. You can remark: “Look they are trying to get us to buy that cereal. I think WE should decide on what is best to eat in our family.”   The Canadian Pediatrics Society suggests limiting screen time to a maximum of one hour a day of educational programming.

In regard to his whining and complaining I would suggest:

  1. Ignore it.  Don’t correct him or argue about it. Turn away or leave the room when he whines or complains.
  2. Pay attention to him when he changes the subject and is not whining and complaining.
  3. Never give in to whining and complaining

At the beginning his whining and complaining will get worse. It is important to continue to ignore it and to pay him attention at other times. Engaging him around whining and complaining only encourages more.

Within two weeks you should notice a difference.

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