Growing up, my siblings and I were not allowed to watch TV on Tuesdays and Thursdays (inventively known as No TV Days), then on Monday, Wednesday and Friday we were only allowed to watch one programme – usually Blue Peter. Unfortunately for us, the ‘cool’ programmes such as, Grange Hill and Biker Grove were on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Cue horrendously moangy teenagers.
Image from: http://www.jumpedtheshark.co.uk/tv-shows-b/byker-grove/
And if that wasn’t strange enough, try answering the first question that pops into people’s heads when you tell them you’re one of eleven siblings: “Don’t you have a TV in your house?” (Who actually says that?) and then you have to embarrassingly state: “Yes we have one, but we’re not allowed to watch it very often”.
I remember my eldest brother and I sneakily (well we thought so), trying to watch Home & Away. I would hide behind the sofa and he would man the remote control. He was responsible for promptly switching the TV off, looking busy or asleep should Mum make an appearance. At the time we thought we were so discreet, but looking back it was so obvious and she probably just let us enjoy (not) getting away with it. Computer games weren’t allowed because we fought too much about whose turn it was! I bet my Mum was loving life. As a result TV and games were labelled as unproductive and ‘a waste of time’ in our family home.
The main benefit I have gained from having a media restricted upbringing is definitely the relationships I have with my siblings. I feel like having less TV taught us how to talk and communicate with each other, which very much carries on today – despite us not all living together. It also meant we were experts at inventing games and playing others such as: Tigers in the Dark, Dressing Up, Block, Sardines, Scattergories, Snap & Go Fish.
My husband has said to me a few times that he thinks I have an irrational fear of TV. At first I couldn’t stop laughing, but as I thought about it, the awkwardness set in and the laughter wore off, I realised it is absolutely true. My biggest parental guilt moments are definitely when I see Winston sat on the sofa glued to the screen. That, and drinking from his Dad’s fizzy drink at McDonald’s (no photographic evidence of that one!)
We don’t have a tablet, we don’t let Winston touch the laptop (more for it’s safety), he hasn’t watched a film yet, I like to sit with him (just me?) if he’s watching anything on TV (which I’m quite strict about) and we only let him look at our phones for pictures and videos of himself. I’m really not sure what is classed as ‘normal’ but I’m assured by my wonderful husband that the above is ‘abnormal’. The honest truth is that up until a few months ago it very rarely crossed my mind to switch the TV on to entertain my two year old, which I put wholly down to being a product of my upbringing. When you have been told TV and games are unproductive and ‘a waste of time’, it stays with you even though times have changed massively.
I know that games, apps and other devices can be very educational (Winston is a fan of the Alphablocks). However, I think I am too selfish to let a device teach my child new things. When Winston can fully count, recognise numbers, letters, read and spell – I want the satisfaction of knowing that it was Jared and I that taught him those things. It is what fulfils me and I want all the glory!
I am definitely a little more relaxed having the TV on in our home and have certainly used it to get some peace, but I still feel passionately that it is so important to have some awareness of how much media our children are exposed to. In my day we only had five TV channels to choose from, and a computer that took about half an hour to boot up. Today we have access to anything and everything…and it scares me a bit. Apparently the average amount of TV a toddler watches in the UK is 1 hour 45 minutes – yikes. That scares me a bit too.
I’m not sure if this classes as over sharing but I feel slightly relieved that this is all out in the open.
I read an article here the other day about ‘How to Raise a Low Media Child (without going insane)’, if you’re interested? Research shows that limiting #screentime leads to better behaviour, improved sleep and improved marks at school.
Would love to hear about your TV habits now, or growing up. So please share them with me!