The Tube Obsession

July 19, 2021

By Meghan Greenwood

Listen to the blog here:

I recently bought a used book called ‘365 TV-Free Activities You Can Do With Your Child’ by Steve and Ruth Bennett. While I’ve only made it about 10 pages in thus far, my underlying concern with how much my older child watches TV instigated this purchase.

From a parental standpoint, he’s glued to the TV because I introduced it in the first place. Starting before age 1, Daniel Tiger was consistently on the tube. I felt validated knowing that he would possibly learn something from this PBS/educational program; however, he became quite attached quite young. And a relatively same approach with my youngest has not (yet) resulted in the same magnetism.

I’ve beat myself up and continue to beat myself up over his growing obsession. We ask him to play and he’d rather watch TV. We ask him to go outside and there are times he chooses cartoons.

But…the more I think about it, I can’t help but take a human standpoint instead of a mother’s. Maybe he is attracted to it for other reasons?

For example:

  1. He could be using TV to cope. As a budding young boy, perhaps he is dealing with internal stressors – fitting in at school, dealing with all of the new information he is learning, or simply feeling hormonally ‘off’. TV can serve as a nice constant, an escape that is a sure thing and will certainly ground you.
  2. He could view TV as his rest. At the age of 5.5, he has long since given up nap time. While I truly believe he would fair well with some sleep during the day, school and he himself does not agree. A growing kid needs a break. And exhaustion is evident when the whiney voice comes out that is only rectified by 30min watching his favorites. I get it – the days can be pretty long and tiring.
  3. He could get pleasure out of the novelty of TV. As recently studied by a group at the University of East Anglia, certain kids crave new stimulations, mostly because they get bored easy. This is not to say this his attention span is the problem (he would sit in front of the TV for hours if I let him) or that technology has ruined him (he has a tablet and video games he barely touches), but instead, he seeks novel stories, engaging content, and perhaps a challenge here and there. While this may factor into the first 2 examples of coping and resting (since TV can be a great de-stressor), it also paints a picture of a kid with a big imagination.

Thinking back to my childhood, I was similar in my attraction to TV. I couldn’t wait to see the next episode of a drama (back when you couldn’t binge and had to wait a whole week to see what happened between Dylan & Brenda!) or what the latest music video countdown contained. I definitely viewed TV as a warm blanket and still do, to an extent, although the time I get to watch nowadays is limited.

So, perhaps I’m being a little too hard on him. I will continue reading my book of TV-free activities. And I will still make many many attempts to engage him in the room full of toys upstairs or going outside to play, but as long as he is not significantly altering his behavior, mood, health or grades, I need to view it more like a part of him instead of something that takes a part of him. Besides, I turned out ok…right?


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