Please could we have your thoughts on screen time and whether it's possible to limit it to very little?

(97 Posts)
JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 08-Oct-12 20:02:12

We're being asked to comment by radio 5 live on a review of the evidence of the harms involved in children watching TV that's being published tomorrow in Archives of Disease in Childhood, part of the BMJ stable.

The author is suggesting there should be limits - and that under the age of 3 children should have no screen time at all (that's ipads and other computers as well as TVs). Then he says it can be phased in to no more than two hours over the age of 16.

I have to say though aware that too much screen time is undesirable, I'm surprised there aren't positives in limited screen time. Also it's bleedin' hard to control, given how much children love this stuff.

Would be very interested to know your thoughts.

CotherMuckingFunt Mon 08-Oct-12 20:06:01

Surely it depends on what they're watching? I'm lucky in that my kids (6 and 4) self-limit their screen time but I think what they do watch is good for them either educationally or just by giving them some down time after very long school days (8:30-4:40).

And tv time is essential for me. It helps me to not kill them.

SheelaNeGig Mon 08-Oct-12 20:07:08

Its 2012. Life revolves around screens and would quickly grind to a halt if people (over 16) were only 'allowed' 2 hours of screen time a day.
If it is that dangerous maybe we need to return to slates?

I have limited laptop time easily. Control panel them parental controls limit to between 7pm and 8pm. Laptop will not let them log on outside of those times.
No game consols apart from the wii which is in the front room so easily limited again.
Only tv downstairs so can keep an eye. I would say they get 2-2.5 hours a day screen time in the week. I don't think its hard to do.

Have to say apart from my job i have the same sort of amount of time a day, though mainly cos i am too busy to watch tv!

honoraglossop Mon 08-Oct-12 20:16:07

I've never understood how you enforce this. If you're 8 year old is watching horrible histories are you meant to take your toddler out of the room? Are you not allowed to sit together and watch tv or iplayer or look up stuff on the internet? Obviously it should be age
appropriate but are we the only family that have "screen time" together? and on a rainy day that may be loads more than 2 hours!

honoraglossop Mon 08-Oct-12 20:17:11

Ooops wrong "your" sorry

SheelaNeGig Mon 08-Oct-12 20:22:05

And what honora said. How do you limit different amounts for different ages in a small house?

happyoverhere Mon 08-Oct-12 20:24:04

Yes its possible to limit it, you just have to parent your children rather than use the screen as a free childminder!

champagnesupernova Mon 08-Oct-12 20:26:25

Too much screen time is probably not good for them I agree, obesity etc but even 20 odd years ago we were being told Why Don't You Switch Off the Television and Go And Do Something Less Boring Instead?!? grin

Like all of these things it's about balance.
I have 2 DC (but they are still little one in reception one nearly 2 so I don't know what it will be like when they want to stay up all night to play Call of Duty in x years time) grin

The positives thus far though:

My DS's vocabulary was definitely improved by watching TV - all the repetition stuff on CBeebies etc is good imho and I think that my DS2's fine motor skills have been helped by the iPod/iphone - he is brilliant at lego (not duple) even though he's not 2 yet.

HotHotNot Mon 08-Oct-12 20:26:34

So what are they (and mum) supposed to do for down time? In the 1970s my mum locked me in the kitchen to watch the washing machine go round. Then she bought a tv and we were both happier grin .

Or are we meant to be all Scandanavian style and have "someone" <sigh> do Worthy Outdoor Things until they are too tired to demand any entertainment?

I do think it would be useful to have an idea of what is too much, though. If only to threaten them with if they are pushing my limits.

Tweasels Mon 08-Oct-12 20:32:04

It would be impossible to implement. I'd rather My older DS was in the family living room watching CBBC than holed up in his room just to make sure younger DD doesn't catch a glimpse. He also spends loads of time on the PC doing things like Mathletics which is promoted by his school. Often younger DD likes to watch him. I think it's great. I have no problem with it.

However, I'd love to be limited to 2 hours screen time per day. Not the 8 hours my job demands!

Taffeta Mon 08-Oct-12 20:36:28

I am gradually changing my view on screen time as I become a more confident parent in my choices for them, and as they grow.

In my day ( ! ) age 8 I'd be away on my bike for the whole day. Of course this is unheard of now, my DS would absolutely LOVE this - the feeling of freedom above all else sad

So, instead, I ferry mine ( 8 and 6 ) around to endless activities, mainly sport, so by the time they are home and any schoolwork is done they are so exhausted they can have some screen time as they are fit for nothing else.

Weekends are a similar activityfest of Rainbows, riding and football, with the odd party/family gathering/friend gathering thrown in, so there are rarely large chunks of time for the screen. We do like a family Saturday night Strictly/Merlin night right now, though smile

NormaStanleyFletcher Mon 08-Oct-12 20:37:53

Mine watch far too much

That is all

All of my children have been allowed to have as much screen time as they wish for an early age - indeed I attribute my eldest daughter's B in Spanish GCSE to hours of watching Dora The Explorer. True story.

They choose to watch 'interesting' programmes mainly, like Mythbusters and How It's Made - it's me who watches the truly rubbish tv they TALK all the way through my soaps and the X Factor sad

Yes, they do watch Adventure Time and The Regular Show but it used to be I-Carly so I'm grateful for the upgrade. I don't believe it does then any harm at all - they don't watch post-watershed programmes - as they switch off the telly when they want to go and read or draw or make a model or whatever. They're all doing very well at school, have better than 20/20 vision, are sociable unlike me

I just fail to see what the problem is.

Jojoba1986 Mon 08-Oct-12 20:46:58

As a self-diagnosed telly-addict I made the decision to move our TV out of the living room & into our cosy loft conversion so I wouldn't be teaching my DS bad habits. He's only one so I may have to eat my words in years to come but so far our system of recording things of interest & watching them at appropriate times (i.e. when DS is asleep!) seems to be working well! I'm not planning on banning screens all together but any screen time will be a family activity reserved for suitable times!

PermanentlyOnEdge Mon 08-Oct-12 20:52:06

I have always been OTT on limiting screen time, having read the 'nothing under three' advice before my two were born. DS (5) has never watched live TV except for the Xmas screening of the Gruffalo. He has a range of DVDs which tend to be for younger kids, eg pingu, and knows how to operate the iplayer where he chooses cloudbabies, chuggington, and similar. Also Octonauts! And a few longer films for Sundays. He is allowed 30-60 mins screentime a day, but that must include iPad/iPhone time too. DD (3-just) didn't really have any until she dropped her nap, now has same as DS ( how could we do it differently, the screaming!!)
I think many other parents think I'm barmy, restricting it so much, though I in turn have been horrified by some of their choices (supersize v superskinny for a five yr DD anyone?), but I have a DS who could read confidently by 3.8 and a 3.0 DD picking out words. I also hate how addictive screentime seems to be, and the wound up state too much seems to get them into. iPad games particularly leave DS crying and angry when he can't do new levels. I would much rather limit it, than take chances that it isn't doing them any good.

So yes, it's possible to limit it, especially if you start as you mean to go on. It's nigh on impossible to remove it once they know what it is. But it's hard on two fronts. Both my DCs ask to watch/play if at home and I'm busy, and don't always take the answer 'no' all that well! And it's so tempting for me if I feel exhausted/ fed up etc to just say yes to get a break. I guess if its what you believe in it helps you stick to your guns.

That said, I haven't outright banned it. This is the age we live in. They need to have the tools/media experience to get on and fit in with their peers, and they need to be screen savvy as adults. I hope to encourage them to make active choices in their own best interests as they get older and can handle sensible decision making.

missorinoco Mon 08-Oct-12 20:53:47

Two hours per day presumably (rather than per week).

I note they say phased, so my four year old doesn't get as much time as a sixteen year old, which sounds farcical, but even so I think this sounds like a joke, and the whim of the week.

A few reasons - most movies are ninety minutes long. My five year old gets a movie most weekends, I'm a harsh parent, but would hardly turn the DVD off cos he'd used up his quota.

Some programmes are educational. Alphablocks is a hit in my house, before the age of three.

As mentioned, what do I do with the toddler when the older two are watching television.

I don't have older children, so am sure someone else will correct me, but isn't a lot of schoolwork done on the computer these days {cringe at how old this makes me sound}

And lastly, even if they suggest this, I suspect many modern parents will not abide to it. I'm not an amazing parent, but I'm by no means terrible, and the television was a blessing when my children dropped their naps and needed some time to zone out. (No, they did not want to bond with Mummy and a book if that is what is suggested.) It was also a lifesaver for when the second and thrid children were born. My middle child was totally disinterested in television, and trying to settle the baby/feed the baby/ stop the baby screaming was so difficult when she didn't want to watch anything, but just wanted my attention. With my older child I relaxed the rules, then reclaimed them when we were into a routine.

No no no no no.

Plus also as said, so not lastly before then, it gets me five minutes peace, and stops me losing it and shrieking like a harpy. I suspect not even a gobstopper would otherwise buy me this.

Lexilicious Mon 08-Oct-12 20:54:10

I have one child who is now just over 3. He had no screen time whatsoever until about 18 months old. Until 2 years old he had a maximum of ten minutes per day, and not within an hour of bedtime, and always with us beside him commenting and talking about what Thomas/Bob/Pingu was doing.

Since 2 we have been a lot more lenient, but have stuck to a fairly limited palette of the children's shows (the ones with real words, for a start, I am having no fucking ninkynonks in this house) and still avoiding screens just before bed. Not having an actual TV helps - we watch everything on iplayer or other demand tv so it is easy to stick to one episode. He had a few goes on the iPad when I first got it, but as I only had the free versions of the games, we exhausted that pretty quickly. We watch daft animal videos on youtube together, and look up steam engines and demolitions. I gather that in the mornings DH sometimes let's him have a ten minute episode of Bob etc if there is enough time after breakfast and before leaving the house. I wouldn't, but that's more because there wouldn't be enough time because I am chaotic in the mornings. grin. We also took him to the cinema for the first time at about 2.5y. He was gripped. (Puss In Boots)

After wash and teeth this evening, DS had one story read to him, and then was sitting up in bed 'reading' Thomas and Bob and Happy Families books to himself for the next half hour. I go in and suggest it's sleepy time now, and he happily put his light out himself and settled down to sleep. Given the choice, he will always go for books over screens at the moment. In the long term though, I imagine that screens will be a far more dominant medium than for my generation for a lot of things - education, work, entertainment - and so I won't restrict them to some arbitrary number of hours. I do think that being involved together in consuming media is the key thing, and that you go into that consuming intentionally (look out for a drama/nature/entertainment/culture/daft slapstick show and watch it) rather than passively (tv switched on for background noise as soon as you get home, which always strikes me as a bit Fahrenheit 451...).

Lexilicious Mon 08-Oct-12 20:55:14

Ps I know the above is all in the luxurious position of having one child. You are welcome to laugh at me if/when child 2 is a tv-gazer.

TheMightyMojoceratops Mon 08-Oct-12 21:02:41

Yes, too much is bad, but too much of anything is bad. Books were once supposed to be bad for you too.

“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”
&#8213; Louisa May Alcott, Work: A Story of Experience

Screen time is the new books, provided you're not using it as a babysitter.

pourmeanotherglass Mon 08-Oct-12 21:07:05

2 hours sounds realistic and achievable (if per day) - possibly a little on the high side - especially if some averaging over the week is allowed - mine(ages 8 and 10) prob have more than 2 hours on a Saturday - they play on the computer in the morning while i have a lie-in and DH is at work, we go out in the afternoon, then often watch strictly/doctor who/total wipeout together. We try to have a screen free day on Sunday. Some days during the week they have less screen time as they have activities, and sometimes they just decide to play/draw instead of watching telly after school.

AViewfromtheFridge Mon 08-Oct-12 21:08:44

Could someone work out how to limit my screen time, please?

Bluestocking Mon 08-Oct-12 21:18:49

We don't have a television. [smug bohemian MC emoticon]. But we do have computers and a portable DVD player, and DS (8) has a PS Vita [overindulgent mother of PFB only child emoticon].
At the weekend, DS watches films and episodes of kids' programmes on iPlayer or the DVD player. He plays computer games too. I would say his screen time averages out at 90 mins per day max over the week. Thinking about it, I think that's probably still too much and I need to get a bit tougher on the computer games.

GloriaTechnicolour Mon 08-Oct-12 21:36:27

My two dcs didn't look at a screen before they were 2, and after that only very minimally. We live abroad, so no cbeebies (and local tv is crap), so we now have a library of DVDs, mostly old stuff from my childhood. We've had phases where they were just rushing in the door and turning the telly on and then basically sitting there for most of the evening, so for the past six months or so we've said no screen time on weekdays, which they accepted very quickly.

They're 7 and 3. After school/nursery we go to the park if the weather's nice, otherwise we come home and I rummage nonchalantly around in their cupboards a bit until they spot something I've got that they want to play with. Generally quite happy playing with Lego, cars, train tracks etc., or fighting and tormenting each other (but that's another story).

They sometimes get our phones to play with at the weekend, and we've been on holiday with friends who've got an iPad (and who basically just give it to them for the week) which is like crack to them.

They actually prefer it if I can sit down and do something with them - we have crafty phases where we make enormous constructions out of cardboard boxes, and they love all that.

I think there are interesting things for them to watch, but generally I hate the way screens makes them slack-jawed and dull-eyed.

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