There are multiple reasons to limit screen time for children today.
Documented negative effects of screen time on children, overstimulating kids tv shows, CGI, annoying real-life characters, demeaning dialogue, this list goes on.
Television networks and streaming platforms alike both primarily feature this new breed of bad children’s programs. Hulu, PBS Kids, Netflix Jr., Youtube Kids or any of the others. They’re all the same. At least on Youtube you can find some hidden gems. But it’s best to pre-download children viewing material to avoid Youtube browsing.
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Have you seen those strange youtube kids videos and kids channels? There are so many of them because of how many views they get. Do some kids sit on wifi devices with free reign on Youtube Kids, consuming these weird kids videos on autoplay for hours?
Be it Youtube Kids or children’s television productions, most children’s programs today are no good.
A Redditor recently called these shows a “babysitter-in-a-box.”
PBS has long since moved on from being an educational channel to being the kid-safe babysitter-in-a-box.
This hits the nail on the head.
I share the full comment and link to the thread further down in this post.
We don’t need a babysitter when we allow screen time. We use screen time to enhance development. As a learning tool. Educational programs of substance will help a child grow and also captivate them all the same, whether they be labeled “educational” or are just a well-written cartoon.
Any show of substance should be worthy for both children and parents alike. So why not play mostly G-rated, adult-worthy shows (like auto shop shows or nature documentaries) instead of overstimulating kid shows?
That way you can avoid this issue of garbage media targeting kids and your children will be entertained and educated through these good adult programs all the same.
5 Reasons To Set Screen Time Limits For Children
If it’s not bad enough that most children get screens put in front of them all day, the quality of many of these popular kids programs helps you see how the problem is compounded.
That’s why I created the 100+ Best Educational Shows For Toddlers List. It’s got some kid friendly adult shows like woodworking and nature documentaries, but it’s mostly actual children’s shows. I have some on there marked as “No”, but I keep most of the bad, overstimulating shows entirely off the list.
This kid shows list helps when looking for something worth viewing for your child. We have 3 dogs always ready to play. We have zero time to waste on bad TV shows.
With that, here are 5 more reasons to play outside instead.
1. Bad Quality Shows: Children’s Programming Quality Has Gone Downhill
Thanks to all the streaming platforms and their kid-channels, combined with the average parents’ lack of looking beyond a thumbnail graphic, it seems the bar has been lowered as far as what it takes to get in front of viewers too. That’s a good thing in many ways, but in children’s television? Maybe the issue is children-targeted-shows in the first place.
While special effects and computer animation might be at its finest point, there is at the same time a proliferation of bad animation and horribly unoriginal and annoying characters on TV shows today.
So between these cheaply produced, low quality programs on these YouTube Kids channels and the high production cost low quality shows coming from major studios, there’s lots of bad kids tv shows to avoid out there.
When one Redditor complained about PBS Kids programming today being all aimed at the 2-8 year old crowd, whereas in the past they included shows like Reading Rainbow, Wishbone, among others listed out, she also hits the nail on the head,
I grew up with those shows, and they entertained and taught a little bit more about the world around me, and made me curious and hunger for learning more. Now it all seems geared for the 2 – 8 year old crowd.– Quote from a Redditor’s comment.
Then another wisely replied,
PBS has long since moved on from being an educational channel to being the kid-safe babysitter-in-a-box. Once the kids grow up and figure out how to work the remote, they move onto cartoon network, disney channel and nickelodeon. The parents don’t care so the shows that used to target older audiences had bad ratings. And now we’re stuck with shows that don’t teach but rather just entertain kids while throwing in a moral or a letter in the mix.Quote-worthy reply on same Reddit thread
This is the case whether it be a new season of a long-time running kids TV show or a brand-new series starting out. It doesn’t matter if it’s a television show that used to be good, like King Babar in its original seasons. The modern versions of classic kids TV shows are always for the most part, bad.
2. Kids TV Shows Teach Fear
Not because of the genre, scary plot or storyline, but simply from the main characters’ reactions or how they are scared of things in the show. We did our best to not teach unnecessary fear, but even the good shows helped to undo some of this. Children have enough imagination as it is. They can make that up on their own with all the animal knowledge, historical stories and classical children’s stories they’ve learned about off-screen.
Luckily, the good kid show, Kipper, helped my son’s first knowledge of “ghosts” be a positive one. There was a happy, friendly ghost on Kipper that made my son laugh. It was also his first introduction to “ghosts”, but it had to be sooner or later. You can always avoid that Kipper episode, as most of its others are good.
Here’s this idea of teaching fear described well in this other Redditor’s comment:
I like Daniel Tiger for the most part, but sometimes I worry it is actually going to send my kiddos backwards.
There are a lot of episodes that focus on Daniel being scared (going to the doctor, first day of school, having a babysitter, etc.) which are great for kids who have those fears, they give good ideas for dealing with them.
But my daughter loves the doctor (thanks the nurses even after they give her shots) and gets excited if Mom and Dad go on a date because she gets to show off her toys to the sitter. So I worry that her seeing these episodes is going to plant the idea in her head that she should be scared of things that she’s never had a problem with before.Redditor’s comment on shows teaching fear.
3. Modern Kids TV Shows Overstimulate
It’s like those rap music videos with bikini’d boobs flying around the screen in hopes it will improve profitable viewing time metrics. Might it be the same thing with over stimulation on children’s programs? It’s all about the viewing stats?
You’ve already noticed how laser-focused children get when watching screens. Quick and loud scene cuts or crazy camera zooms really do make children react as if it’s a Universal Studios 3D ride. Could that be good for a 2, 3 or 4-year old?
The solution to this is to abstain from screen time as long as you can. And then, when it’s time, introduce only non-stimulating, wholesome educational programs (such as Old Bear Stories or Tumble Leaf) for your toddler or preschooler.
Our list of Educational Shows For Toddlers has some good educational non-stimulating shows on it.
4. Television Lowers Attention Span
Studies have shown that children with early television exposure (from 1 to 3 years old) end up suffering from a decreased attention span. This study just linked is titled, “Early television exposure and subsequent attentional problems in children” and is published on the National Library of Medicine. They used viewing hours as the main predictor in their study and concluded that TV exposure at these early stages of life indeed do lead to attentional problems by age 7. Research Gate has the downloadable full-text PDF of this study, so you can read all the details.
There have been other studies done on this. For such a sensitive subject, one that reveals harm being done to children’s minds, of course there will be contrary opinions published alongside these original findings.
Psychological Science has come out saying that the study mentioned above is bogus and that there is no evidence that television viewing causes attention problems in children.
Well, it doesn’t take teams of researchers to know the truth on this matter.
Depending on the amount you let your children watch, and the contents you let them watch, any in-tune parent can notice how excessive or inappropriate (modern, mindless kids shows) television viewing affects your child first-hand.
The solution: Less screen time
Outside the actual content on the programs which would impact this study and broaden the negative effects beyond that of just attention disorders, viewing-time itself is a predictor for attention problems in childhood.
The solution is less screen time.
Every other day at most.
No more than 1 or 2 hours on those days.
And not only less TV, but better quality educational shows too. Better programs are slower paced and promote a longer attention span.
On top of this, after the viewing, we always have conversations about what he just watched, his three favorite parts, and any other conversations that stem from this post-watching discussion.
It takes more effort on my part, but this is a duty in raising children in this modern era of harmful children’s TV content.
Our Experience: Less Screen Time Equates To Higher Levels of Concentration
My son has excellent focus and concentration. Simply abstaining from television in his early years in lieu of drawing, reading, puzzles, legos, dogs, wrestling, and then introducing educational learning videos lightly at age 2, and then an educational tv show by age 3, has put our son levels ahead of others his age.
At age 3 (and even at age 2), his attention and focus was and is better than most children his age. This alone makes him more similar to a mature 5 to 7 year old. And in reality, he gets along most with mature 5-7 year olds and even older.
I don’t think he’s got a good head on his shoulders purely from something we did. Could it be from the lack of injections at birth? From all the sunshine and good sleep? From all the books and playing? Or from avoiding screens? I think he’s a good boy because of all of these factors and more. Screen avoidance is just one prong to control in the raising of children. We have a ways to go, but will continue trying our best.
5. TV Shows Introduce Agendas
Could there be agendas in these kids shows? A political message or a morality you disagree with? Or something more subtle, such as the show’s interpersonal relationships within the household (mom always yelling at dad, brother and sister always screaming and fighting, dad’s always the dumb-dumb getting talked down to, and mom’s always the superhero, etc.). Mom’s are superheroes. My wife is 100% a superhero. But why do all modern shows dump on the dads so much? Might it be a part of this agenda silently spreading across all shows now?
Both consciously and subconsciously these programs are feeding our children’s minds with things we likely don’t agree with, believe correct or morally right, or would want our children being “programmed” with.
Why is it Called a “Television Program” or “Children’s Programming” Anyways?
Here are some thoughts on this word or idea of “children’s television programming.”
The English language was put together using a mix of other languages. It makes you wonder what was behind some of these words’ creation.
Just playing around with the word, tele – a Greek root word that means to cover far distances – sounds like “Tell-A”.
To me this sounds like “Tell A Vision”
Vision in the Websters 1828, my preferred and better dictionary, means something not real. Imaginary. Production of fancy.
But Tel-e-Vision today is our only source of truth, no?
The modern Webster’s has an interesting vision definition; “something seen in a dream, trance, or ecstasy, especially : a supernatural appearance that conveys a revelation”
Program stems from programma. The new Webster’s has many definitions of “Program”. It’s a “transitive verb.” Some of its more interesting definitions include:
- to control by or as if by a program
- to code in an organism’s program
- to predetermine the thinking, behavior, or operations of as if by computer programming
So, as far as tele-vision goes, I think most of us would be better off avoiding all the ill intentioned [agendas, mental programming] trance-like, supernatural appearances (“vision”) from far off (“tele”) coming into our homes.
Managing Screen Time For Children
If you normally restrict media, chances are your child will like whatever you let him watch. So it’s good to be able to let him enjoy quality television, instead of something potentially harmful. But both bad and great educational shows for children alike are addictive.
Alternating days and limiting the amount on those screen time days is what we found to be a happy middle ground for everyone.
This limited screen time we found helps avoid any potential separation syndrome or negative behaviors that came about a few times at the end of tv viewing time.
Lots of those devices have cutoff options and children settings as well. I hope they’re not reliant on wifi to work.
Download First – A Strategy To Limit Screen Time
We download all our programs and play them offline on VLC or Quicktime on my monitor.
This is in order to watch everything offline.
I understand many stream things and maintain that internet connection throughout.
Well iPads are bad to watch things on.
They emit their EMF strongest right at the bottom of them, where often children will place it on their lap. You’re best off using a tv or monitor and keeping a good distance from it.
But these devices have offline modes, and they also have ways to set screen time limits on the device.
So if you let your children hold these devices while watching, I’d recommend to set limits on the screen time if possible, as well as watching OFFLINE only.
If you need to watch while connected, you can connect any device to an ethernet cable and get the internet connection through a hardwire instead of via wifi. That’s the best way.
Final Thoughts: Why We Handpick Each Program Watched
It’s a vulnerable state a child is in, being entranced by whatever is on the screen. It’s necessary to hand-pick whatever it is they view.
Building up a hand-picked viewing library is time-consuming to do. It’ll take a work day or weekend away from you every so often, but that effort pays off for a while and it’s worth it (our shows list may shortcut some of that time for you).
This idea of agendas being in the shows is an important one. If these shows were loud and annoying, yet innocent and trying to be wholesome, this would be a breath of fresh air. However, modern shows are not what they are by accident.
Without going into this topic of agendas in children’s television programming any further, some questions I had about this: Can children be programmed? Are there people trying to program my child through kid shows? Why are they doing this? How do they do this in the shows?
Activities Are Better Than Even The Best TV Shows
Generate positive reactions, real interactions and memorable conversations with educational activities! You already know this, but always worth repeating about activities. Better than TV, but also way more time and energy consuming! We have a list going for the best fun and educational activities for children.
Activities don’t have to be time consuming either.
Drawing alongside a new album you’re sharing.
There are many fun learning activities that are passive and can last hours. From legos and blocks to jigsaw puzzles and one of our favorites is something we call “Write and Draw”. Just a simple structured thing I do on a page where he writes some words focused around a topic or letter, then draws a picture of what it is. I’ll have to share activities in a future post that you can do to have your child focus on something while you do your own work or duties.
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