Reality TV Parenting Redux – The One Week Challenge

I recently and unwittingly hit a parenting nerve.
A post that I wrote a while back entitled “Reality TV: A Parenting Reality” was the most popular and commented-upon piece that I have had to date. Exactly why, who knows, but one can certainly speculate.
Many of us adhere to the philosophy of “Reality TV Parenting” more out of inertia and less from a concentrated effort to purposefully slack off on our parenting duties. But perhaps at this point I should back up somewhat and provide some context. 
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What exactly is “Reality TV Parenting?” Well, let’s say that it’s the easy way out. It’s a way of spending time with your kids while watching your favorite reality TV programs – in my case, it’s Survivor, The Amazing Race and anything on The Food Network (am loving “Chopped” right now).
Sure, there is guilt involved. Lots of guilt. But not enough guilt to make you pick up your feet off the ottoman, to get up off the couch, or turn the TV off completely. Reality TV parenting consists of conveniently watching shows that you like all under the guise of spending time with your kid(s). It’s convenient. It’s easy. And it suits you just fine.
But what about your kids?
According to numerous reports, children and television are not generally seen to be compatible partners. Excessive TV-watching in kids has been linked to a range of problematic results, from obesity to aggression. Yet we continue to watch these programs with our children in the hopes of perhaps catching a few minutes of peace and entertainment.
Sometimes it’s because you really want to see what happens on “American Idol” or “Dancing With The Stars,” but more often than not, you are just really, really tired and have not one more ounce of energy to devote to the more involved responsibilities of parenting – like reading, homework and just plain talking to your child.
Television is just one part of the parenting puzzle these days, as other types of technology such as  computers, tablets (such as iPads), game consoles (Wii, Xbox) and the like continue to take precedence over spending time with our children the old-fashioned way. I, for one, am extremely guilty in this department.
Which leads me to the reason behind today’s post.
I’d like to challenge all of you to try a bit of an experiment for one week. Can you turn off the TV and spend more time with your kids? Can you cut out the convenience of “Reality TV Parenting” and get back to the basics? Read that extra book with your child, make up another story or just cuddle on the couch…with the TV turned off. I know that this will be a challenge for some of us, myself included, but it will likely pay off in the long run (you know that you can always DVR your favorite program and watch it next week, too!).
Do you think you can do the one-week TV challenge? Can you cut back or completely turn off the TV for one week and replace that time with a child-focused activity? I challenge you!
Can’t wait to hear all about it 🙂

**Please answer the poll in the right sidebar about how much TV you watch with your kids per week**

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  1. championm2000 says

    Around here, I am guilty of being on the computer while my children play happily on the floor. So, I take the challenge. Gulp. Instead of being on the computer while we are all together, I will use that time to play with them or read. Gulp, again.

    I will reserve computer time (and blog time) for after they are asleep.

    Let's see how this goes…

  2. Anonymous says

    Hi Sam, as a note of interest, there are a number of orthodox religious schools that do not allow television viewing for children – period – it's one of the terms and conditions parents must agree to in order to qualify for enrollment. I commend this initiative for a variety of reasons (as someone who really loathes tv) but I especially commend the parents who opt for this lifestyle choice. I get it… this can't be easy… but it's an interesting approach to both education and parenting and perhaps what we can all learn from this is that television doesn't HAVE TO BE central to our day to day routine.

  3. Samantha says

    @championm2000 Hi, Melissa! I'm scared too! And that's exactly the reason why I thought this would be a good idea. My reliance on “Reality TV Parenting” is pretty sad, I'm sorry to admit, so this could be the proverbial kick in the pants to raise the bar on my time with the kiddies. Double-gulp, let's see how this goes….

  4. Samantha says

    @Anonymous Wow – I didn't know that but kudos to the schools that are doing this. There's something to be said for this philosophy (coming from someone who embarrassingly admits to taking the lazy way out) and it's likely that the kids at these schools have a much better grounding with their families. As well, they're probably doing quite well with their reading, homework, creative expression, etc. Something for all of us to consider, for sure. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Candace @Naturally Educational says

    My kids watch maybe 3-4 hours of videos a week, tops. So, it isn't a big part of our lives. They don't watch television programming. There are weeks we watch no screen time. Right now, with the new baby due soon and lots of work to finish before that, I would say it is unlikely I could go ALL of next week without a single a video…but there are many weeks when we have no screen time.

  6. Samantha says

    @Candace @Naturally Educational Hi Candace, 3-4 hours a week of watching videos isn't a high number, I don't think. I've heard really incredible numbers in terms of the hours that kids spend watching TV, with or without their families. Agreed, it is really hard NOT to rely on the technology at hand, especially when you need to get something done. Not sure I can go the whole week without flicking on the tube either. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  7. Holly Ann says

    You know, I'm really an “everything in moderation” kind of girl. I know what all the studies say about watching television and I balance that with day-to-day priorities and realities. I'm also a school teacher so I highly value quality education. A good upbringing and technology are not mutually exclusive. In fact, when choices are made thoughtfully by parents and educators, the two can be extremely mutually compatible. For example, I use laptops, projectors, videos, and smartboards with my students weekly and I am fully confident that these mediums enhance their education. I can make smart technology choices at home with my own kids too. 🙂

  8. Samantha says

    @Holly Ann Hi Holly, great points and definitely food for thought! I think you hit the nail on the head – “everything in moderation” – I think the issues arise when the balance is not there and the scales are tipped on the side of being excessive, in this case, TV-watching. I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm guilty of this – allowing my daughter to watch a bit more TV than I would ordinarily like, just so I can get a few more minutes of peace. I guess my guilt about this spurred on this challenge, more so for me to try to get back into a better schedule or routine that decreases the amount of TV-watching overall in our house. A work in progress for sure but I'm hoping that this will at least keep the issue top-of-mind for me. Thank so much for your insightful feedback!