November 18, 2017

Media Detox

by contributing writer, Tonya Ferguson

  • Today, kids under 2 spend more than twice as much time watching videos, as they do being read to.
  • In 2/3 of households, TVs are on during meals.
  • In 75% of households, TVs are on when no one is watching them.
  • More than 70% of kids have TVs in their bedrooms
  • Only 1/3 of households have media-consumption rules


I was scrolling through my news feed after Christmas, and was SO heartbroken to see photo after photo of families around the living room, all looking down at their screens. Cousins sitting side by side, not playing or interacting, but both looking down at an iPad screen.

I even saw an ad for a bouncy seat with an iPad attachment!

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  Seriously? Is this what our world has come to?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has concluded that babies are not able to process television until age 2 and instead of TV and computers, little ones should be exposed to development-building playtime and quality time with their parents.

Guess what else, excessive and early exposure to screen time is linked to a host of health problems!!!!  Ya think?!

From ADHD to poor parent-baby bonding to future higher risks of heart attack and stroke to tendonitis to obesity to sleep disorders to some serious future screen addictions and much more, excessive and early screen time benefits no one.

See more here.

What is this generation of “Screen Kids” going to look like 10 years down the road?  

Will they know how to go outside and make mud pies?  Will they know how to play house and use their imaginations?

Will they know how to have a face to face conversation with real emotion with a person of the opposite sex?

We have NO idea what this generation of screen kids is going to look like!  And  I, for one, am going to fight the digital age with all that I have.

As a stay at home mom of young children, its important to me, to really limit screen time, because I want my kids to run, and play and use their imaginations.  I want them to BE KIDS!  Be messy and dirty and be REAL in REAL time.  Run outside, not run on the Wii.  Ride bikes, not play Street Surfer.

Rule #1 at our house is school kids don’t get TV time during the school week.

They don’t need it.  After sitting at a desk all day, I think their time at home should be spent reading, coloring, jumping on the trampoline or playing softball as a family.
The little ones at home get an hour total, spent in the morning, that way Mommy can prep supper, or even get a shower, but that is IT for the whole day!

That hour of media time can also be spent on an educational lap top, or mom approved computer game.  One or the other, not both!

I used to set a timer, because they were so quiet and good I would forget and time would fly by!  All the kids know when the words come up at the end of a show, the TV goes off, so questions asked.  If it doesn’t, then they are grounded the next day from any media time!!!!

2) Screen time is the same as TV time

I have already mentioned big kids don’t get TV time during the school week, and I mean it. They also do not get screen time, no iPad and no computer unless its for homework assignment research.
However, on weekends, they are welcome to use their 1 hour on an iPad or computer, but the game must not be online, and it must be approved by mom.

3) No TV in the car, except for long road trips.  

We choose to listen to Adventure in Odyssey story CD’s, or just visit about the day and what we are seeing as we drive.

This is PRIME learning time, as you have a captive audience.  Think about it, what a great time to talk about the day!  Or how about using it as teachable moments to trouble shoot problems at school, and talk about what Jesus would have us to do in day-to-day real life situations!

4) No cell phones until you are driving age!

Cell phones are just not a necessity in my book.  When our kids can drive, we’d like there to be a cell phone in the car in case of emergency, or be used to make a check in call when you arrive at your destination safely.  I want our home to be Cell Phone Free, or at very least have major “Phone Free Zones”  including the dinner table.

My desire is to have a docking station in the mud room, you come home…your phone stays there until you leave again.  No phones in bedrooms, if someone needs to speak to you, they may call our home phone at a decent hour!  This also limits inappropriate conduct via texting.

5) “Tv Makes Your Brain Soggy, Reading Makes It STRONG”

I have preached this message since my kids were toddlers, and they still tell each other that.  We love to read at our house, and library day is always a highlight.  The house is so quiet you can hear a pin drop.  All the kids pile the books all around them, fluff up a stack of pillows, and read the afternoon away.

Reading Day

The littlest Ferguson must still take a nap, but the bigger kids have rest time.  The first hour is spent reading, the second can be a quiet activity.  This applies on the weekend to our school kids as well.  I love how it has turned into a harvest of good readers that love to disappear into a good book!

Another way we have helped replace TV with reading, it choosing to not have TV on until the kids go to bed.  Sometimes Dale flips on the weather, or checks in on the game, but most of the time its off until after everyone is asleep.  There is nothing we want them seeing on night-time TV, commercials included.  Instead, after supper dishes, homework and teeth brushing time, we read a chapter book together, or a stack of library books before Bible story and prayer time.

The next thing I want to cover is the tiny BABIES I see watching tv in the car, or the flashing light toys that are everywhere for them to stare at.

You all, your 4 month old does NOT need to watch your iPhone in the car to be entertained.  And I guarantee you, your 18 month old does NOT need a tablet of her own.

Did you know????

 Among babies 3 months old and younger, 40% watch TV, with the percentage increasing significantly for children age 2 and younger!

The flashing screen and loud sounds can actually disrupt important brain connections that need to be made in those early on months and even up to the first two years!

A study in 2003 found that children 6 months to 6 years old spend an average of two hours a day dealing with “screen media” like televisions, computers and video games.  

The study also revealed a correlation between time spent watching television and difficulty reading later in life.

I think we can all imagine those numbers have increased dramatically since 2003!!!!!

Babies under 2 do not need ANY screen time!  Believe it or not, infants can lay on their blanket and look at their hands, and make the brain connections necessary to grow and thrive.  They need interaction with them face to face, not face to screen. Your toddler can run around and throw a ball, build a block tower that doesn’t light up, and be better off in the long run, when he goes to school and realizes not everything in life flashes and glows in entertainment mode.

  People, we are setting our kids up to FAIL big time in a world that doesn’t always sing, dance and flash lights.

So what can we do?

Well, we can train them young to read and play with non battery toys.  We can let them see us reading a real book, putting our phones in the laundry room and walking away for the rest of the day.  You read my post about iPhone Mom last month, I don’t need to go on about how I feel on this subject.  🙂

We can teach our kids to love to read, simply by reading to them a mere 2o minutes a day.  I love to read to my kiddos while they eat lunch, it helps prepare them for nap time and eat better!

So how about a Media Detox for our kids this week?  


You mean no computer, no iPad, Tablet, Laptop or TV time for SEVEN WHOLE DAYS?  

Are you crazy!?!?!?!

Maybe.  🙂

We all know the kids will whine and be BORED at first, you will be irritated and wonder why the heck you are even trying this, but just wait……

With a detox, you always feel worse before you feel better, right!?  

I bet, by the end of a week, or maybe two weeks for those die-hard media fans, your children will be playing so nicely together!

They might even disappear under a kitchen table tent, out into the backyard, or into a play room-turned castle for hours, as they travel to far away lands!!! All without needing media to occupy their thoughts!

I bet you will be surprised how the tone of your home feels different, too!

Avery made herself a reading chair

Next, I want to encourage you to replace 20 minutes of that normal slot of media time, reading out loud to your kids.

This can also be done at the table while they eat lunch, right before they go down for afternoon naps, or even save it for before bed.

Set that time aside and watch it grow into a special family tradition.

Reading time

And, in the long run? Reading will make them better students, too!

Lastly, when you think everyone is ready to handle it, re-introduce 1 hour of Media time per day for non school kids, and 1 hour per weekend day for school kids.

Are you ready for a Media DETOX?




  1. We have similar rules and Saturdays is usually electronic day you can choose one activity. My boys know how to make mud pies, build tents in the kitchen under a table what ever their fancy is. My neighbor daughter is less than 6 months old and has her own tablet. I wonder what our children will look like as well and not be able to hold a real conversation. I have to disagree about the cell phone my boys are 12 and 15 both have a cell phone for after school activities but we do monitor them as well we have a docking station in the living room.

  2. I am so thankful I don’t have to deal with the media these days. It was hard enough controlling the TV, videos, video games and the “cord” phone when my children were growing up. It was a constant battle, and I felt like I was in it alone, because my children’s friends all had these things. They didn’t want their friends to come to my home; they wanted to go to their friends because the Nintendo was unlimited.

    The elementary schools DID have a “TV turn off week.” I loved it – life, meals, conversations, bible study, etc. no longer revolved around the television schedule and when the beloved programs ended. (Unfortunately my husband was the biggest TV fan.)

    When videotapes came out, friend’s birthday “parties” consisted of watching a video – not playing games and doing creative things. So much easier for busy moms. My co-workers and friends gave their toddlers and preschoolers tablets this Christmas – it “keeps them occupied” ) aka – babysits them.

    I can’t imagine what it would be like for a middle schooler/teen to not have a phone when everyone else does. I totally agree with you, but I look at the other side and what the kids are up against. Every parent has to draw the line.

    Keep up the good work spreading the word Tonya! This is what my grandchildren are up against!

    • It is going to be tough, and my kids may not always understand our choices for them, but I hope in the end they will understand this is for their protection and benefit!
      So far they are happy as larks just playing good ol’ fashioned games and activities.

  3. Are you kidding? I need a media detox for ME!! All joking aside, these are all great things to do for your children. Pull the plug, parents, and give your children the gift of learning.

  4. I needed this post! Thanks, Tonya! I also love your post on the iPhone mom.

  5. Kezia Jackman says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for addressing this volatile topic!!!! Sometimes I have felt sooooo alone as my husband and I have not allowed our little ones to use ipads, computer, etc, at all yet. (our oldest is only 3 1/2) I teach piano lessons, and I have been terribly disturbed by the fact that almost every single youngster who comes has some sort of electronic gizmo to play with as they wait for their lesson. I agreed with your post COMPLETELY, and thank you for it. You didn’t touch (I don’t think) on the expense involved in all these electronic gadgets. My husband and I can’t even afford an ipad for ourselves, much less for our little ones. Also, would it hurt to eliminate TV completely? I grew up without tv, and we are continuing that tradition in our family. I asked someone recently if there was ANYTHING worth watching on TV, and they answered with a firm NO! Do we as parents even need to be watching it?

    • I personally don’t watch TV shows anymore and I don’t miss it a bit. In fact, when I did tune in to one of my old favorites, I was MORTIFIED at how horrible it was!!!!! We become desensitized so quickly!
      We don’t have cable, but even the limited channels we do get are full of junk, commericals included! It’s a sewer pipe leading right into my living room and I hate it….

  6. I enjoyed your post! Interesting info on screen time interrupting brain connections in babies…

    We don’t even have a TV, and screen time on the laptop is extremely limited and monitored in our house (we have a 3 year old and a 9 month old son). Our 9 month old doesn’t watch anything at all, obviously.

    After living several years without one, I’m in the camp that wonders why anyone even really NEEDS a TV?! It is a definite time drain, as well as pretty dangerous territory morally, if we aren’t very vigilant (and of course you have to be careful with internet too)… with young kids in the house it just doesn’t seem worth it to me to have a TV anymore 🙂

  7. Thank you for writing this. My husband and I have been trying to limit electronics time with our 3 kids (especially our oldest). I love the idea of a “media detox.” I think if we “unplug” everyone for a week or so it could be the head start that we’ve been needing.

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