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I banned TV - and now I hate myself

They say you should never make a parenting threat that you can’t carry out. Well whoops. I screwed that one up…

Help, can I reverse the ban?

I jumped on a high horse last year. My oldest had started school and I decided the view up there from the lofty heights of intellectualism looked a whole lot better than the one from down here.

I’m not even sure really why I did it. Somewhere in the back of my mind I decided it might be good for my kids to enforce a ban on TV and computers.

Not a total ban. Just a during-the-week ban.

It’s not that I am against TV at all. In fact if you knew me you would think I am the last person who would ban TV.

I love TV. I worked for the majority of my career in the industry. From game shows to news reporting to breakfast TV. I lived, breathed, talked about and watched television on a daily basis.

It was my life.

Right back at University I studied kids’ TV as an elective. I wrote papers on how educational it can be, and how overstated the damage it does to children can be.

I argued vehemently against banning educational programs for young people.

I love TV. Really.

But something in my brain went into hibernation last year when I made “THE DECISION”. That little bit of my brain that contains reason went out the window when I confidently informed my children that once you start big school you can now no longer watch TV.

They were confused at first. It wasn’t that they watched an awful lot, but it’s sudden cessation was a shock for the whole family.

So calm while watching TV

Now I have three kids – only one at school – but THE DECISION was for them all.

My reasons were two-fold.

First up – no-one in the house ever did anything when the TV was on. Try telling a six-year old boy to put his shoes on when Tom and Jerry are busily playing tricks on a screen in front of him.

I may as well have put him in blinkers and led him to a pile of hay. There was no way my son was seeing anything but that screen.

The frustration of repeating "put-your-shoes-on-get-your-school-bag-find-your-school-hat"over and over again boiled over.

There was one person to blame and that was Hanna Barbara (that’s a person right? I skipped that day at uni).

The second reason was er, well, the same as the first. No one did anything when the bloody TV was on.

The immediate affect was a noisy one. There was more fighting, more whinging, more demands for Mum time.

I forgot what a lifesaver that damn device can be.

I forgot how helpful the soothing tones of cartoons could be when I am trying to do something else.

I forgot how much mess three children could make when they are left to their own devices without a flat screen babysitter to occupy them.

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I didn’t realise how I could make use of it as a reward for my youngest two while I helped my oldest do his homework.

I missed it.

Most parents feel a little uneasy about letting their kids watch too much TV. Of course we would all prefer that our kids were outside running around, or were busy reading books.

But it’s not always that easy.

So much mess

Sometimes we parents need to get our own stuff done, and the great pacifier that is TV can be an amazing helper.

The official recommendations in Australia from the Department of Health and Ageing are:

- Children aged 5-18: Should not spend more than two hours a day using electronic media for entertainment (e.g. computer games, TV, internet)

- Children aged 2 to 5 years: For children 2 to 5 years of age, sitting and watching television and the use of other electronic media (DVDs, computer and other electronic games) should be limited to less than one hour per day.

- Children aged less than 2 years: Children younger than 2 years of age should not spend any time watching television or using other electronic media (DVDs, computer and other electronic games).

Around the world many countries have similar recommendations, the British are a little less instructive their "Early Years Foundation Stage" for 0-5s implies that television should actually be part of children's learning.

Only the French government have actively banned stations from showing programs targeted at under-threes.

Deep down I don’t really think a little TV is harmful in any way.

It is just a little distracting – so I stuck to my guns.

And here’s the truth bomb. Oh how I regret it!

It’s been a year now. A hard year. A year of mess, and tantrums and fights and more mess.

Every afternoon is a challenge – an anxiety-ridden race to get to bedtime without too many disasters.

Here is what I have learned from MY DECISION:

Kids without TV during the week binge on TV on the weekend. They can’t get enough. They stand close enough to inhale the screen. They talk about it. They pretend play the characters.

Kids without TV are incredibly messy human beings, but it’s amazing what worlds their imaginations can lead them to with a room full of cushions and a few couches. Nothing you can’t clean huh? (Yes I really am trying to talk myself into that one)

You don't need technology to have fun

Siblings without TV eventually learn to play wonderfully together. Sure there are fights, but nothing melts your heart more than the sight of your kids happily enjoying each other’s company. (Whilst making a massive mess.)

But by year one a child without much TV or access to a desktop or laptop computer is actually a little behind the other kids at school when it comes to computer literacy. Perhaps the computer decision is one that has been to his detriment.

I also find it hard to get the time to help my oldest with his homework with the other two buzzing around me all the time. I dream of putting them in front of Play School while my six-year old and I tackle his readers.

So I am thinking of reversing the ban. I am thinking of officially inviting Mister Nickelodeon back into my weekday schedule.

I am thinking of giving in.

Should I? I’ve come this far. Is it too late to back down?

Watch this space.

Should Shauna give in and turn the TV back on?

00:00 / ???