I never thought that I would ever set the classical music channel, which is available on our cable subscription, as a favorite TV channel. It plays classical music all day long with just a picture of classical musical instruments and/or the artist on the screen. I did this out of necessity. I needed to prevent Matthew, my little TV and DVD addict, from being sucked in and mesmerized with TV. He knows which button to push to turn on the tv but he doesn't know how to change the channels (yet).
I used to put in Baby Signing Time for him every other day or so. He loved it but he wasn't addicted to it. He was learning the signs from watching it and from me teaching him hand over hand. He'd watch one DVD and was ok with me turning it off when it was done. He was getting 30 minutes of TV time per day on average.
The downward spiral accelerated when I let him watch more DVDs when I was pregnant with Elizabeth. I'm guilty of using the TV as a babysitter. The fatigue and discomfort from the pregnancy was my lame excuse. I wasn't spending as much play time with him as I wanted to. I'd let him watch a DVD twice in a row and then sometimes switch to another DVD. What harm could they do? After all, they were educational and he was learning to say words like "ball" and "dump truck". At this point, he was getting 2 to 2-1/2 hours of TV time per day on average.
Generally, I'm not opposed to watching TV. I like watching TV. But when I see my little boy memorizing the DVDs and tuning out the world around him whether the TV was on or off, I knew it had to stop.
He would find a DVD, bring it to me and giggle, which meant he wanted to watch it. It was cute in the beginning until the crying fits started and got worse whenever I tried to redirect him to other activities. I even resorted to hiding all the DVDs we had but he just found the TV remote and brought that to me. He eventually found my DVD hiding spot.
He did not want to do anything else. His mind was hooked on his favorite shows and I could see him replaying the shows in his head, evidenced by him mentally "checking out" for several seconds at a time. In this state, he wouldn't hear me if I said something. His ability to play independently and somewhat creatively with his toys diminished during this time.
The other thing that made me sad was the fact that I was the go-to person for TV and DVDs. I didn't want to be that person. He would never ask Bill or my mom, when she was here, for tv time.
Three months ago, we cut him off cold turkey. With Bill's intervention, we were able to redirect him to other things like playing with toys or playing outside. It wasn't easy. I had to learn to ignore his requests for TV time and be more persistent about playing with toys than he was about his DVDs. I had to ignore his pouts and crying fits. Over the 2 to 3-week "detox" period, I noticed he was asking for DVDs less and less. He was more agreeable to being redirected to toys. He was more alert and playing more independently. He wasn't "checking out" as much. It was a very nice change to see.
These days, Matthew will ocassionally turn on the TV. But with it set to the classical music channel, it doesn't hold his interest long at all. He easily moves on to playing with his toys. He'll bring me a DVD sometimes. I simply acknowledge it and promptly redirect him to a toy or game for us to play, then I discreetly put the DVD away.
Other kids might have been fine with some TV time but since it was adversely affecting Matthew, it was best to do away with all TV time. The DVDs will have to gather dust until he is ready to handle TV again or until we can't regulate it anymore. I also have to pass on Early Reading Programs that come with DVDs, at least for now.
The classical music channel is a good temporary fix. If needed, I'll have to think of something else when Matthew learns to switch channels.
I wonder how many other parents are dealing with this issue, if there are any at all, and what they are doing about it.