I've always been strict about TV time in our house. We don't have cable, we only own one TV (my husband and I don't even have one in our bedroom), and it's rare that you'll find the TV on during the day other than for the morning news or a big sporting event. And when it comes to my kids, I'm just as strict. Call me crazy, but it's just what works for us. Instead of being glued to the screen and not talking for hours on end, we read, do crafts, and overall, just have independent play time.
While this might sound a tad over-the-top, my kids are actually totally fine with it. They rarely ask to watch TV, and on the occasion when there really isn't much to do, I tell them it's OK to be bored from time to time. It's in these moments that their imaginations really unfold. They go outside, explore, or play a game of "Monster" or "House." Having the TV on would just get in the way of all of that. Instead, watching TV is a special privilege and reward, or at times when mom is exceptionally desperate, a bribe (I have no shame in my game). To make sure this all stays consistent, my husband and I have come up with a few guidelines for TV watching in our house.
1. I Expect Chores to Be Done Before They Watch TV
Watching TV is a privilege, not a right. They need to pick up their toys and clean their rooms if they want to sit back, relax, and watch TV. I've found that it's not too much to ask, and it even gets the kids to clean up faster. Win, win!
2. They Get 1 Hour of TV a Week
I try to minimize the amount of TV the kids watch to one hour per week. Yes, sometimes we exceed this, but honestly, there are weeks when the kids don't even watch any TV at all. They're usually busy with school, homework, and activities that there's no time left for TV, and they don't mind.
3. I Monitor What They Watch
When my kids are allowed to watch TV, it's not a free for all. I find age-appropriate cartoons that have some kind of educational value. I don't always achieve this, but I've found that most shows — especially those found on PBS — teach kids good and essential lessons. And since my kids don't get much TV time per week, I want to make sure the time I do give them isn't wasted.