Friday, September 25, 2009

Parenting Technique for Limiting TV

If television time has gotten out of hand, here's a technique to get you and the chillins back on track:

Issue the kids screen time vouchers totaling two hours a week in 30 minute increments. If they have vouchers left over at the end of the week, give them a dollar for every voucher toward a future book purchase (Reference: Sept 2009 Parents mag, reader contribution). That's the basic tenchnique. Some tips:

1. If you are afraid a half hour voucher will turn into an hour or more of television,

  • Use On Demand, DVR, or DVDs to limit the time. We have a couple of series on DVD that Aiden can choose from. You could also let them watch an episode (free!) of their favorite show on the computer using sites like

  • Use a kitchen timer (or buy an animal version and name it the TV Timer) and set it on top of the TV. This is useful for watching a show or a whole movie in pieces.

2. Expand the book credit reward into a system that teaches kids about money and saving. This is one way to create a foundation of good money management skills early.

  • Give each child an envelope for stashing money and a sheet of paper to keep track of it all. Create a table with four columns: date, description, amount (have them add + and - to each entry), and balance. Fill it in with them each time or, if the child is old enough, let them do it themselves. They can double check their work by counting the money in the envelope.


  1. I've been thinking about this since I first read it. Limiting TV is something that's always been a worry to me. But lately I'm kind of changing my mind about it. For us the television has prompted philosophical and metaphysical conversations, introduced my daughter to stories that she refused to let me read to her before "meeting" the characters on television, increased her reading abilities and ability, and made it much easier for us to enter into her inner life and join in her imaginative play. Sounds crazy I know, but I've kind of stopped worrying about how much the television is on. The key I think is that she's always watching with supervision, and it's really not so much television as it is DVDs (no outrageous commercials) and I'm talking about children's programs here, not CSI...

  2. It's true that television can be a tool. I like the way this article lays out the issue: Content is definitely important and its great that you take an active role. The wrong content can increase aggression, introduce/reinforce racial and sex-role stereotyping, decrease interest in school and reading, and create poorer health habits and attitudes. You limit much of the behavioral damage by being really proactive about the content - focusing on prosocial content that reinforces positive lifestyle habits. However, there are some things that content control simply can't help. TV affects kids' sleep patterns and possibly their mental health (e.g. links to ADD and addictive behaviors).

    So for me, I've taken the better safe then sorry route because I know that I will not be as vigilant as I should be about content and that I really value consistent sleep patterns. Limiting tv is not an issue that I currently have to deal with but I like the idea of a bargaining approach. Many studies have shown that even when parents WANT to limit tv, they often have no clue as to how to begin that process. Thus, my post. If I had the problem and Aiden was at an appropriate age, this is the method I would try.