a peek inside the fishbowl

19 Apr, 2010

Know More Do More Mondays: screen time (part 1)

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Know More Do More

I might as well start out by saying I wasn’t crazy about the activity we drew last week.

Encourage your family to be physically active even when watching TV; do some fun aerobics. Only 10% of Canadian youth are meeting the guideline for screen time of <2 hours per day.

I find this stat a little shocking, don’t you? How do these families find the time to watch TV or sit in front of a gaming console? If they’re watching TV, what are they missing out on?

The girls watch very little TV during the work/school week. Same goes for the Wii, the computer(s) or the iPhone or iPod Touch (which the girls are allowed to use). We’re just too busy.

Comparatively, they do watch a lot of TV on Saturday mornings; from the time they wake up (which is 7:00ish) until about 10:00 a.m. (Which is about how long it takes for Mark and I to get up and make coffee.)

We spend one day per weekend at Mark’s parents, and THAT’S when they cram in a week’s worth of screen time. During our six months of winter, we’re all playing on the laptop or the Wii/Wii Fit for most of the afternoon. When it’s warm, however, we’re out by the pool. (Thank goodness for that.)

Anyway, getting back to this week’s challenge, I didn’t think I needed to make them leap up and do jumping jacks during their three hours of Saturday morning television watching – mostly because we’re almost always doing something more active Saturday afternoon.

If anyone is squeezing in some fitness during TV-time, it’s me. I drop and do 20, spend two minutes doing jumping jacks and/or lunges while heating up the milk for my morning coffee, draw circles with my legs while brushing my teeth every night (it’s harder than you think), and do crunches before I go to bed.

Perhaps if the girls watched more television – or were younger – I’d make them do it. But I didn’t.

The girls have been biking and skating with their friends all around the neighborhood almost every day. We’ve been going out for a walk every night after dinner. Sunday we went to our local park and participated in the annual Spring cleanup event.  We’ve been busy.

So that’s been our week!

I’m going to start drawing the tips for the coming week at the same time I post about the previous week’s activities. I think it’ll be more interesting that way. And if a couple of people do it with me i’ll consider it a bonus.

This coming week I am cheating and picking my family’s activity without the help of the tip jar. And here it is:

Participate in a TV Turnoff Challenge: Screens Free Week is April 19-25
Screen time typically increases as a child ages… and activity time decreases.

This is going to be a challenge for sure, especially for me and Mark. This means: no TV or movies, no Wii or X-box (which belongs to Mark), and no games on the iPhone. No computer games (for the girls) or random Internet surfing (for me).

What will we do instead? If the weather’s good: go outside. We’ll read more. Play games. Maybe go explore a  new park if the weather is good. 

I’ll let you know how we did next Monday.

What about you? How much TV does your family consume during a regular week? And would you consider joining us and tuning out for awhile?

9 Responses to "Know More Do More Mondays: screen time (part 1)"

1 | andrea

April 19th, 2010 at 8:09 am


I wanted to add something to this post.

At one point when the girls were small we were annoyed by how often they asked us to watch TV. (How many times does a parent have to say no?) So I drew a picture of a TV with a big red circle around it and a line through it and taped it to the cabinet. It sounds ridiculous, but it totally worked. They didn’t ask us to watch TV as long as the sign was hanging there. Weird eh?

2 | Rebecca

April 19th, 2010 at 9:01 am


I wish I could say I could cut all screen time completely for a week, but I suspect I’d cheat – it’s not even the tv really. They don’t ask to watch much. It’s the computer for my son – he likes to play some games, and frankly, for quiet time or while I’m occupying the baby (or trying to clean) it really is handy.

How much screen time we get really depends on ours week – some weeks I am way less organized or the weather is crummy so it’s available. Other weeks he barely gets to play for an hour because we’re busy, out, etc.
We also have no tv on the main floor where the kitchen/living room/dining room is (open concept) but do listen and dance to a lot of music. I have a mini rock band with these kids ;)

I am going to make myself more aware this week and try very hard to limit – but when that 3:30 witching hour comes, I am making no promises ;)

3 | andrea

April 19th, 2010 at 9:17 am


Rebecca, we do what we can do right? :) I think being aware of the TV, when it’s on etc., is a critical first step.

When one of the girls was very small (18 months?) she refused to get dressed in the mornings before preschool. It was such hard work convincing her to get ready and get us all out the door on time. The only thing that worked was the TV. We’d turn it on for her to watch and she’d turn into a total zombie and let us dress her for head to toe, practically without noticing what we were doing.

After awhile she started complaining about having to turn the TV off before the show was over, no matter that we had to rush out the door to get to preschool and work.

It was at that point that we decided that it was best to just say no, to turn it off and leave it off. And we took a different tactic re: getting dressed. She got to pick out her clothes and lay them out the night before. Amazingly, this seemed to work for us and morning TV wasn’t missed too much.

I am only sharing this story – not to guilt parents into turning off – but to tell you that there are other alternatives that work sometimes. And that it’s very easy to get stuck in a rut.

I do agree that the TV is a useful babysitter when needed. I remember COUNTLESS early mornings, in which the kids would get up at 5:00. I was in no shape to be a parent. HELLO KID’S CBC.

There are good shows on TV too, it’s not all garbage, but at the same time I think we have to be mindful of how quickly screen time adds up (especially as they get older) and to not let it overshadow things like outdoor play, homework, family time etc.

4 | Dina

April 19th, 2010 at 12:27 pm


My daughter is only 16 months so this isn’t really an issue for us yet but we have decided that we are going to try to wait until she is at least 3 or 4 before we let her watch TV. As you mentioned statistics show that most children spend too much time in front of a TV or computer screen and we are hoping that by delaying her introduction to these things that she will learn to enjoy other things like being outdoors, reading etc… but who knows it could also have the opposite effect. Time will tell…

5 | meg

April 19th, 2010 at 1:31 pm


my bad habit is putting my 2.5 son infront of the tv in the mornings after breakfast so i can get ready for work. we don’t have cable, so it is usually a mighty machine dvd. the problem is, he doesn’t always want the tv on and will go and turn it off. he’d rather play (with me), but i am busy trying to get dressed, pack our daycare bag, etc. i want him to be contained and engaged in the tv so i can get organized. i hate it, but need it at the same time.

6 | Micheline Turnau

April 19th, 2010 at 1:45 pm


Hi Andrea,

What really helped for us is not having a TV on the main floor living/dinning room area. This is where we hang out most of the time after work/after dinner if we are not outside with the kids. Our kids are still young (1.5 and 4) so they would rather be with us then play downstairs and watch TV on their own. This helps but I am sure things will change in a few years and we will need to think of new ways to limit screen time.

7 | A Crafty Mom

April 20th, 2010 at 8:33 am


I had seriously considered doing this but with sick kids at home I had to bail at the last minute. Hard to say no to TV all day long when they are lying in bed!!

We are on the verge of canceling our cable. As a family, we don’t watch a lot of TV, and I watch virtually none these days b/c I’m too busy. My husband watches sports (mostly hockey) but I can’t legitimize the cost of cable just to watch the occasional hockey game. Our couple of favourite shows we can download online. And while our children don’t watch a lot of TV, I worry VERY much about what they do watch.

My oldest son is not diagnosed but shows some ADHD tendencies – he is a total zombie when TV is on and can’t even hear a word I say when I talk to him. He has also learned to use the remotes on his own, so occasionally when I am not in the room (our only TV is in the basement, not on our main floor) he has it turned to Teletoon – and there are some very inappropriate words and topics on that station. “Idiot” and “stupid” seem to be regular. I feel that getting rid of cable will just be good for all of us. We are an active family, outside mostly in good weather, so I think that will help.

So all in all I think this is a great idea but I won’t be hitting the permanent turn-off button this week :)

8 | Tali

April 20th, 2010 at 6:06 pm


I’ve mentioned this before, but we don’t have a TV. The girls (3 and 5) started last summer having a movie night a couple times a month (we use the computer). They don’t ask much, they seem to forget about it after a while, and they know the answer will probably be NO.

This came about after the SAME thing happened to us, Andrea, where I would put on the TV so I could get my eldest into her snowsuit. They she’d throw fits when I turned it off. We got rid of the TV, and decided to wait until later.

The reason we started watching movies again was because I realized that they watch them at school (ugh) and I wanted to be able to watch stuff with them do we could talk about it….plus, honestly, I thought if I deprived them of media altogether, they might go overboard at a later point. We don’t use it as a babysitter; someone always watches with them, but it is a definite break from reading aloud the 12th book of the day ;)

9 | Tali

April 20th, 2010 at 6:07 pm


Also, I should mention that the big problem with screen time at our house is with me, reading endless blogs/articles on the computer.

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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