Kids, Motherhood

Escaping the Trap of Screen Time

How and why I'm cutting back on my daughter's time in front of the TV

I’m going to take a minute to be real with you.  This is hard for me to admit, especially with how much all moms are judged and scrutinized for every little thing we do, but here goes…  I love TV.  Like, way too much.  And it’s on almost all day at my house.  For the last several months I’ve depended on having screen time to keep my daughter busy, and I’m not proud of that at all.  Especially since I know TV isn’t good for little minds.

I’ve recently become ultra aware of the fact that we watch way too much TV every day.  I hadn’t really given it much thought until a couple weeks ago when I was reading an article about how screen time affects young kids.  Now, I’ve always known it was bad, but I just kind of slipped into the habit of using it to keep my daughter occupied so I could get things done.  Hey, I’m not perfect.  Let’s just be real, sometimes TV is a mom’s best friend.

Reading that article just kind of opened my eyes to the issue though.  And I felt guilty.  So guilty.  I wish I was that mom.  The one who never turned on the TV to keep her kids occupied.  The one who had all kinds of crafts and educational activities planned every day.  But I know I fail in this area.

I don’t believe that we as moms should be living in a state of guilt.  But I feel like I should do better when I know I’m not making the best choices for myself or my family.

How I’m cutting back on screen time

My first step was to try to wait as long as I can to turn the TV on (it hasn’t been on at all yet today!!).  Usually, I would turn on Addie’s favorite shows as soon as she woke up and it would pretty much stay on the rest of the day.  It really makes me cringe to admit that.

Instead, we’ve been listening to music and playing in her room – away from temptation!  Plus, the living room doesn’t get as messy because we’re spending less time in there.  Less cleaning for me! 🙂

Last night I even turned off the TV in my bedroom and slept without it.  The terrible habit of having the TV on while I slept started when I was dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety.  The light and noise helped keep me distracted from all the anxious thoughts and feelings I was having at night.  I had become terrified of silence.  Maybe that’s the biggest issue for me when dealing with so much TV time.  It’s more for me than my daughter.

Thankfully I’ve recovered from my PPD, but the bad habit I had picked up just kind of stuck around afterward.

My next goal is to start having actual activities planned every day for my daughter to do.  Nothing too complicated, just fun little things for her to do instead of watching TV.  There are so many neat ideas on Pinterest that I’m looking forward to trying out.

One thing I’ve been wanting to do for a while now is finger painting.  I’ve been a little scared of the mess it would make, so we’re going to try that one in the bathtub with just her diaper on!

How things are going with less TV

Without the TV on all the time I’ve been getting a little more creative with fitting work into my day.  This is something I still need to get the hang of, and I feel a lot of it will be learning how to use my time more efficiently.  But it’s been nice focusing more on spending time one-on-one with Addie instead of trying to distract her.

For right now I’ve been using her nap time to get as much work done as I can.  And while she’s playing I’ve been jotting down to-do lists and ideas for future blog posts on my phone.  I even wrote most of this post on my phone while she was busy stacking blocks!  So I’ve been able to get a little work done and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on time with my daughter.  Super win!

I plan to cut back even more in the coming weeks, but in order to keep up with it, I’m taking small steps.  I think cutting it out completely or even cutting back to a place I would feel comfortable long term, would be too much all at once and I wouldn’t keep up with it.  I’m all about taking baby steps.

Have you struggled with screen time?  What things do you do instead of watching TV?

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  1. I absolutely agree. Moms are judged for everything choice. Lately, we’ve fallen into a TV rut too. With winter here and me being 7 months pregnant, I just don’t have the extra energy to devote to all the fun things we used to do. In the summer/fall we spent a majority of our day exploring outside and now not so much. I also write blogs from my phone because it’s more convenient that the laptop since my little one loves trying to “type” while I work. I believe it’s all about balance. 🙂

    1. Bethany

      Oh yes! My little one likes to help me type too! Lol. And I’m 8 months pregnant right now, so that’s definitely contributed to the TV problem. It’s not easy keeping up with a toddler with this belly and no energy!

  2. What a great post! It sounds like you’re doing a wonderful job of reducing screen time in your house. I’m sure your daughter will benefit greatly and you’ll enjoy many more moments together as a result. I like how you aren’t giving yourself a guilt trip about it, just making some changes. Because I truly believe that for the most part us parents just do the best we can with what we’ve got, and going through PPD isn’t easy at all, so it’s good to be understanding of yourself and where your habits came from. #productivemomslinkup

    1. Bethany

      Thank you for reading, and for leaving such a kind comment! It can be so tempting to just wallow in guilt over bad decisions, but I’ve learned that it’s much better to just do what you can to improve and give yourself some grace. 🙂

  3. Leila

    This is such honest post.
    We have TV on before bed time (half an hour). Some days I have to put TV on during the day simply because I have to do this and that. I believe everything in moderation is the best way. Thanks for sharing mama just stick to it and be consistent.

    1. Bethany

      Yes! Moderation is definitely key! Just have to get myself to that point. I’ve been doing a lot better with it though, so that’s good. 🙂

  4. Great tips! It can be hard to stay away from the screen especially in the winter when it is too cold to go outside.

    1. Bethany

      Winter seems to make a lot of things challenging. It’s hard being stuck in the house all day!

  5. I generally don’t watch TV until after the kids go to bed, and only because hubby turns it on. I struggle most with my phone. Trying to build my blog has me constantly thinking about it … I would like more of a break from it now lol

    1. Bethany

      The phone is definitely a struggle too!

  6. Amy

    This has been an ongoing struggle for me but I feel that Im finally finding my niche of what works and doesn’t work for my family. I think its so great to cut back on electronics and giving the kids more hands on activities and getting that one-on-one time with them 🙂 Keep it up mama!

    1. Bethany

      Thanks for reading, Amy! It is really great to spend time without any technology. I’ve started really enjoying it! I’m glad you’ve found what works for you in this area and thanks for the encouragement! 🙂

  7. Girlfriend, I can relate with SO much of this!! I don’t personally watch a ton, but over the last several months as my at-home workload has picked up, and since all 4 of my kids are home with me, I found myself doing the same thing by having it on WAYYYYY too much during the day, for either background noise or to occupy the kiddos while I tended to other things. Now I still allow them screen time, but do so really purposefully, with the intent to watch a specific show or movie as an activity, not just an “occupier.” Playing music is a great substitute and I find that they pretty quickly find other ways to occupy themselves when the tv goes off and the music turns on! Good for you mama – on being real and making changes 🙂

    1. Bethany

      Thank you so much for reading, Kelsey! I’m glad you’ve found ways to cut back that work for you! Having music on instead has worked really well for us too. I love what you said about using screen time purposefully, I’ve been trying to do that too. The past couple days when we have the TV on it’s been so we can watch something together instead of just to distract my daughter. It’s been such a nice change.

  8. Reading this at 5 am with cartoons in the background because we literally do the same thing. Hello, wake up call! I just turned the tv off and am going to try and be much more diligent about this. Thank you for opening up and sharing!

    1. Bethany

      I’m so glad you can relate, Andi! It’s not easy once you get in the habit of having the TV on so much. I love having the background noise, so learning to do without it is a challenge! Having music or an audio book or podcast going instead helps. Good luck cutting back and thanks for reading! 🙂

  9. Oh my goodness how I relate to this post. I am guilt of the same things you are. My daughter (also named Addie!) is very rambunctious and always wants me by her side so I have gotten into the awful habit of allowing her to watch endless amounts of tv. More and more I’ve been realizing that a lot of her need to be near me and on top of me all the time is likely because she is feeling ignored. Guilty 🙁 Until about a year ago we lived in a place where we didn’t have tv, literally we didn’t have cable and couldn’t get basic channels because we lived in the mountains. Somehow we managed just fine, with only putting movies on for her occasionally. I need to get back to that space for her benefit and mine.
    Great post, thanks for sharing and for motivating me! Good luck!

    1. Bethany

      Your story sounds so much like mine, Tasha! And how neat that your daughter’s name is Addie! My Addie is the same way and I’ve realized the same thing, that she may feel ignored sometimes. It’s amazing how her behavior changes when I intentionally take the time to just sit on the floor and play with her. Thank you so much for reading and good luck to you too! You can do it! 🙂

  10. Rachael

    I feel like I could have written this. Even down to the the fact that my toddler’s name is Addie. I struggled with PPD for months after she was born and I too turned the tv on to fill the quiet. I had always worked outside the home until the month before she was born, so going from being socially active and working every day to being a stay at home mom of a newborn was a huge change. The loneliness was overwhelming. As she got older the tv stayed on and it just changed from hgtv to kids channels. I hate to admit that it usually comes on most mornings and stays on until we go to bed, with me and my husband getting to watch maybe one show for ourselves that evening. Even when she isn’t watching it, playing in her room, coloring or doing anything else, it is still always on in the background. Addie is now two and a half and we have a newborn. I am in a completely different place mentally now than I was after Addie’s birth. I feel happy and healthy despite having a sleepless one month old baby. But now I am ready for quiet tv free days. I told my husband just the other day that for the most part I wouldn’t even mind if we did away with it completely. I’m now in the process of planning a daily preschool lesson and activity for Addie to start next month and hopefully start kicking this horrible habit of constant tv. Keep me in your prayers because I will need all of the motivation I can get. She is a very energetic and headstrong little girl, and I am a tired mama that will need all of my willpower to turn the tv off and keep it off.

    1. Bethany

      We sound so alike! I’m still in the process of doing away with having the TV on so much. Unfortunately in the past couple months I’ve backslid quite a bit and it’s had a bigger role in our lives than it should. I also went from working outside the home to being a stay at home mom. I had no idea how big of a transition that would be! Getting into a good routine has made a huge difference for my whole family, and definitely helps when trying to cut back on TV. It sounds like you’re doing a great job working to cut back! My Addie is very energetic and headstrong too, so it’s not always easy to stick to my guns. You’ve got this though! I’ll be praying things go well for you, Rachael! 🙂

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