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Why I set new TV rules for my kids

The TV is always on at the van de Geyn house, but there are new rules now about what the kids are allowed to watch.

KidsTV-September2013-iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

Follow along as Today’s Parent contributor Lisa van de Geyn weighs in on parenting issues and life with her two young daughters. Stay tuned for occasional posts from her husband Peter as he shares parenting stories from his point on view.

We’re big connoisseurs of the ol’ boob tube in our house. Big. It’s our thing. The four of us have our shows (we all — Peter included — very much adore Sofia the First on Disney Junior, and we love us some Octonauts on Treehouse); Peter and I could spend days on end cuddling in front of the TV (in fact, BC — before children — we’d get home from work on a Friday evening and stare at whichever series we were watching on DVD at the time until Sunday night); and I have my own favourites (ahem… Dance Moms, anyone?) that I indulge in while I’m working during the day or late at night while everyone else is asleep. The TV plays such an important role in our house that it’s usually on during dinner (I’ve blogged about that before) and, while we were in the hospital recovering after a Caesarean with Peyton, we brought a laptop and watched season six of The Office (mostly to relax me).

I know what you’re thinking: What’s with this bunch of couch potatoes? Do they ever get off their rear ends and un-glue their eyes from the screens in their house? The answer, of course, is yes. Sure, Peter and I would be better off spending more time speed walking than television viewing, but we all have our vices.

Read more: The debate: Should you let your toddler watch TV? >

I come by being a TV addict honestly — I grew up watching The Flintstones at lunchtime, I was enthralled with the soaps my parents watched (and continue to watch) religiously (Days Of Our Lives… that damn Stefano!), and spent nights plunked down in front of some of the best sitcoms and dramas through the ages, from I Love Lucy and Golden Girls, to Dynasty and the original (obviously) Beverly Hills, 90210.

When my sisters and I watched TV with my parents, there wasn’t really anything we weren’t allowed to see. A little intrigue on Murder, She Wrote? You bet. Crazy made-for-TV movies? Sure. All in the Family — starring the biggest racist, bigot and sexist meathead in all of TV land? But of course — it’s a classic.

So it makes sense, then, that I assumed I’d be a parent who’d let her kids watch anything and everything. I mean, Addy and Peyton don’t know what a meth lab is, so who cares if they’re still awake when we put Breaking Bad on at night? And what difference does it make if they catch a few minutes of The Good Wife before dozing off? (Maybe one of them will decide to become a lawyer? Though I do like the idea of them becoming princesses like Sofia.)

Read more: How much TV can toddlers watch a day? >

All that said, I’ve become a little wiser with my screen-time allowances. My kids are sponges — they’re a lot more savvy and clearly smarter than I was at their ages. Unlike when I was a kid, I know Addy pays attention to whatever’s on, and, let’s face it — TV is a lot more intense today than it was in the 1980s and 1990s. I just can’t fill her wee mind with the stuff that often freaks out Mommy and Daddy. So for now (and for the next decade or so), the rule is that our tots have to be fast asleep or sleeping over at Bubby and Zaidy’s before we watch anything that includes the following: vampires (no matter how good-looking), walking zombies, blood-splatter analysts with Dark Passengers, fornication in prisons, too many guns and explosions, sick children in hospitals, mean girls, and/or more swearing than they’re used to hearing.

They’re still allowed to watch Dance Moms (obviously) and Downton Abbey (they still don’t get most British terms and accents).

What do you allow your kids to watch, and what’s off limits?