How to End Your Kids' Obsession with Television

How to End Your Kids’ Obsession with Television

FamilyFun magazine March 2012Meet one couple who cured their kids’ television habit by letting them watch as much as they wanted.

In a perfect world, kids would quietly entertain themselves with books and crayons in the late afternoon as parents made dinner for the family. Wouldn’t that be nice? But in reality, dinnertime often brings out the whines in families, and many parents (myself included) have given in to the temptation to let television distract our children while we cook dinner, check our email or return phone calls. But what do you do when screens begin to rule your family? One mom in Northampton, Mass., tells the story of how she cured her kids’ addiction to television in the March issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Naomi Shulman and her husband hated how much television their girls watched. They rushed through dinner, homework and music practice to catch episodes of their favorite shows before bed. The Shulmans had rules about television (the girls couldn’t watch it until after 5 p.m., for example) but they still felt like it ruled their family. Then one day, Naoimi decided to implement a radical change. All screens (TV, iPhones, computers) would remain off during the week. But on the weekends, the girls had unlimited access to their favorite shows.

“I was thinking of the old-fashioned aversion therapy technique for quitting smoking–you know, where you let someone smoke til they literally get sick, thus creating lifelong repulsion,” Naomi says.

When “Operation Lost Weekend” arrived, the parents watched and waited–and were horrified with the results. “Picture a perfectly gorgeous late-summer day, neighborhood children happily running down the block, the crack of a baseball bat in the distance … and where were our kids? Sitting slack-jawed in front of the television.”

The Shulmans worried their plan had backfired but stuck with it a few more weeks. Then slowly, the girls became less interested in their TV-filled weekends. Weekdays were great. The kids worked diligently on their homework and came up with fun projects to fill their time like knitting, making a restaurant on the back porch and writing and directing a play.

Naomi says her girls still enjoy a few hours of uninterrupted screen time on the weekend, but they’re also just as likely to turn off the tube and go outside. Even her 10-year-old recently admitted that the new “no TV during the week” rule works. Naomi thought she’d say it was because it gives her time to do her homework or learn other fun activities, but Lila had a different answer.

“No,” she said, “It’s because we watched everything there was to watch that first weekend.”