How much television should children watch?

I’ve decided it’s time to stop Belle watching so much television, effective immediately, with an additional complete ban on the Disney Channel. It’s a tough decision, given that the TV represents a significant chunk of my childcare, but I fear I have to do it, for two reasons.

Partly it’s because she seems to have become possessed with the spirit of Hannah Montana, and just cannot do as she is told without either hideous amounts of heavy sarcasm and talk-to-the-hand style arms gestures, or furious door slamming and feet stamping.  Also, I’m becoming seriously concerned about the amount of advertising she is being exposed to.

“I’ve started my birthday list,” she told me yesterday, at the end of an ad break. Her birthday is in August. I guess it’s good to be prepared.

“I want a Playmobil mobile home, a Playmobil ice-cream van, and a Meccano spaceship and one of those things that was in that other advert.”

“Right…” I say. “What other advert?”

“I don’t know,” she says impatiently, “that one that was just on then. After the Playmobil one.”

“OK, but what was the thing? Was it a toy of some kind?”

“I can’t remember,” she barks, clearly frustrated at my inability to read minds/turn back time, “I know I liked it though.” Well obviously. Liked it so much in fact that she instantly forgot what it was.

“Well,” I concede, “I’ll definitely try and remember, It isn’t your birthday for a few months yet though.”

“WHAT??” she yells, spoilt American TV star style, “I have to wait until my birthday??”

“Yes, that is the general idea with birthday presents.”

“Oh GREAT, I’ll just wait MONTHS then shall I? You obviously don’t CARE about me and want be to be SAD!” And with that she throws a cushion viciously onto the floor, stamps upstairs to her bedroom and slams the door, shouting and sobbing all the while. It seems I have created a monster.

I reach for the remote and switch off the television.



  1. Beth
    12 May, 2011 / 7:26 pm

    I don’t blame you. I am constantly being told I am mean because I refuse to have Sky but considering the hours of Disney channel I missed I’m thankful I’ve resisted! In Belle’s defence, I started making my birthday list months before my birthday at that age-all out of an Argos catalogue! Haha! It was very rare I got what was on my list.

    • 13 May, 2011 / 6:35 pm

      Yeah she loves that too – can’t beat a bit of cutting and sticking from the Argos catalogue :-)

  2. Lisbeth
    12 May, 2011 / 7:26 pm

    I think this is just 8 year olds. My 8 year old doesn’t watch TV any more as she is mainly reading but she is like this now anyway. In fact *I* keep thinking that maybe I should ban books… So you may as well keep the telly on…

    • 13 May, 2011 / 6:35 pm

      Banning books…weird?

      I think perhaps just sedating them all for a couple of years could work.

      • Kenneth Bladon
        13 May, 2011 / 7:51 pm

        No way ban books: when the lights go out and we’re all in Rumania circa 1977 and using candles we’ll all be reading!

  3. 12 May, 2011 / 7:29 pm

    have you just moved into my house??!! moments before this post came into my inbox I had told my 8yr old daughter ‘no more iCarly, you need to watch something else, like a movie or a nature programme’……..that went down well! I can’t stand the noise of it all any longer…..for the foreseeable future there is to be no more iCarly,Hannah Montana, wizards of waverley place, Suite life of Zac n cody……..I’m not sure how long I will last!

    • 13 May, 2011 / 6:37 pm

      Well I’m still going strong! It is rather refreshing! It was getting a bit annoying anyway the fact that the Disney channel seems to only have about a dozen actors and they crop up in EVERYTHING, like they are milking their contracts for all they can. All very weird.

  4. 12 May, 2011 / 7:52 pm

    my kids mostly watch CBBC and Cbeebies with no adverts :-) I do like programmes on Milkshake (Ch 5) but hate the adverts as its all “I want that mummy”….

    • 13 May, 2011 / 6:38 pm

      I’ve limited it to CBBC only now. I just wish she were still yong enough for the innocence of something like Postman Pat or Pingu!

  5. 12 May, 2011 / 7:53 pm

    There’s such a difference in the shows pitched at this age group. CBeebies a world of cuteness, but just when you’re admiring the babysitting skills of the TV suddenly the shows are all lipgloss and locker slamming. But this is what seems to keep engaged and that’s why they make them. Vicious circle, surely there is some kind of tween Iggle Piggle we can wheel out?! I’m defo going to put TV rules when Phoenix grows up. If he wants to watch Power Rangers he can go outside and act it out. Yes, even in the rain!

    • 13 May, 2011 / 6:39 pm

      There’s quite a lot of decent stuff on CBBC I reckon. I laughed outloud at Horrible Histories the other day :-)

  6. Vicky
    12 May, 2011 / 8:09 pm

    Snap – this evening’s argument over a broken game on the laptop has made me seriously consider following Susan Maushart’s example and banning ALL technology.

    The episode ended with “I HATE YOU” being screamed directly in my face followed by a laptop lead flying across the front room into a glass vase and a very angry, sobbing 9yr old boy stomping up the stairs and slamming every door he could find….. I just LOVE my life…. x

    • 13 May, 2011 / 6:40 pm

      If it’s any comfort, I was talking to the mother of an eight year old today and she says she has just the same problem – a lot of ‘I HATE YOUS’ in their house at the moment. Along with a generous helping of ‘I DIDN’T ASK TO BE BORN!’ :-(

  7. 12 May, 2011 / 9:38 pm

    Oh My Gosh Jo, you and I live such similar lives, my tweenager watches all those shows, the ones where everyone shouts!!!! I find myself saying “No shouty programs allowed!”, before saying “right, 10 more minutes, I’m setting the sleep function!” pretty much every day! She does tend to get most of her 2-hours-per-day-screen-time-allocation at the weekends but in holidays, well lets just say it gets a bit slacker! Luckily I trained her early to distrust all advertising and taught her that they lie just to get her to buy things, so you’ll often hear her say “Yeah right, like it really does that!” or “Gees that advert is sooooooo cheesy!” Yes! I’ve taught her well!

    • 13 May, 2011 / 6:41 pm

      That’s good that she can see through the advertising at least! You have clearly bred a suitably cynical child :-)

  8. Eccentricess
    12 May, 2011 / 10:03 pm

    After massive tantrums at age 6, we banned TV and computers except on weekends, and then limited it as well. We now have a much calmer child, who used the people around her as role models instead.

    • 13 May, 2011 / 6:42 pm

      Excellent! Good to know it can make a difference, let’s hope I haven’t left it too late…

  9. 12 May, 2011 / 10:16 pm

    My attitude would be that all children are different and different amounts of TV will affect them all differently. So basically if too much TV is affecting them negatively then cut back. How much is too much will depend on the child.

  10. 13 May, 2011 / 8:32 am

    I think our daughters are related. My (almost) 10-year-old is at least 14 in the attitude stakes. But she mostly still enjoys the TV that’s really a bit too young for her now, so I don’t have the luxury of blaming Hannah Montana!

    • 13 May, 2011 / 6:46 pm

      If it’s any comfort, I think it is actually an early teenhood. My 15 year old was decidely stroppy at eight, but is a total pleasure now for about 99% of the time, has been for years.

  11. 13 May, 2011 / 9:08 am

    She sounds like me! So far this year I want some Nowich Union home insurance, some ringtones, a packet of non-bio washing powder and a Nissan Juke.

    • 13 May, 2011 / 6:43 pm

      Lol, have you put them on a list for your birthday? I think you should.

  12. Kenneth Bladon
    13 May, 2011 / 9:11 am

    I am staying with friends at the moment, as I am recovering from an injury. Speaking as a bachelor with no children, I probably speak out of turn, but I fear that those who use TV as a childminder when their children are pre-schoolers reap the whirlwind later. The younger of the two sons of the household where I am staying throws a wobbly if he is turfed off the TV or the Wii and his elder brother at rising 11 is not a whole lot better.

    • 13 May, 2011 / 6:52 pm

      You’re probably right, but it is really hard to not get sucked in by the whole ‘tv as childcare’ thing, especially if you’re a single parent or working from home. You sort of know it’s bad in the long term, but in the short term you think ‘just ten more minutes while I finish this…’

  13. 13 May, 2011 / 4:21 pm

    Yeah good idea my kids don’t watch any tv nor do we either just on the internet in small doses. What we do is download many DVDs in digital format on the computer so the kids can just click on those to watch. You could try that to avoid the perils of advertising.

    • 13 May, 2011 / 6:55 pm

      Belle has cottoned on to that. The other day when I said NO TV AT ALL she asked if she could play a game on my laptop instead, five minutes later I find her with her headphones watching back episodes of Tracy Beaker on the CBBC website. I had to admire her sneakiness really…

  14. 14 May, 2011 / 8:22 am

    Ouch! Good luck x

  15. 16 May, 2011 / 9:03 am

    Is it wrong to say ‘I hate Hannah Montana!’? We saw the film first, and anticipated the TV version with joy all the way home. It seems she had a character transformation whilst we were on the short drive from the cinema – never watching that again! Nick Junior all the way from now on!

  16. 18 May, 2011 / 4:37 pm

    That blooming TV is the reason ym daughter is Lelly Kelli mad! £50 quid for black shoes! Daylight robbery!

    However if you let them watch films it is an hour and half of you time and no adverts……

    J x

  17. barley13
    20 May, 2011 / 11:29 am

    Yep, I’m with you on this!! Amy watches too much as well, though for her it’s more iCarly and the other American teen ones. And don’t you find that they all seem to shout at each other? I have to remind Amy often that it isn’t the normal way to behave to our friends!

    CJ xx

  18. 20 May, 2011 / 11:44 am

    Haha. Still, in my limited telly experience, it could be worse. Could be iCarly she’s imitating… To be fair, they get you wherever you are – my toddler has never watched telly at home but is addicted to Peppa Pig from the books she was given at Christmas. I can’t argue – they’re not only, well, BOOKS, but they’re actually quite good!

  19. 25 June, 2011 / 12:41 pm

    I do think that children do watch to many Telavision shows and also Video games; and lets not for get Cell-phones & Texting .
    When I was a young person all we had was playing out side with our neighbors and friendsand we didn’t fight or have Gangs or try to Stab or Kill one another either. we knew better than that because our Parents wouldn’t allow it. But today parents haven’t got enough authority any more over these kinds of things.

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