TV Ettiquette

Updated on February 28, 2015
F.B. asks from Kew Gardens, NY
11 answers

Mamas & Papas-

Growing up, we had no "restrictions" on screen time. We were free to watch TV including sitcoms, cartoons and afterschool specials until my father came home, at which point, we'd loose control of the tv (no remote at that time), and he'd watch the evening news, or PBS, then the Barbara Mandrell Sisters or some such thing.

There were a few rules though-
1. adults get precedent. kids didn't get to control the tv, and were only allowed to get a turn with turning the channels if an adult wasn't watching, or if they allowed it. 2. you couldn't stand too close to the t.v. (it would hurt your eyes, you would get pumped full of radiation, you would grow hair on your palms). 3. you couldn't get so fully immersed in the tv as to ignore someone who was speaking to you. people came first, always.

What were the rules when you were growing up. What rules do you have if any?
Until now, it wasn't much concern, because my kid could take it or leave it, didn't get immersed in it, and would more often than not get on with his own games in a few minutes. At 4, he can and might get that glazed over look, and sit still for a full episode, possibly more, and disappear to the world ignoring us, and the rest of the world.

Thanks for your tips,
F. B.

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So What Happened?

There was one TV in the house. It had no remote, you had to get up and change the channels using a dial. It had rabbit ears, a roof antenna, tin foil, and you'd still have to tune it for certain stations.

More Answers



answers from Baton Rouge on

When we were in elementary school, my sister and I had dibs on the one tv in the house on Saturday mornings but we had to compromise on what cartoons to watch. Any fighting over the tv, and we both lost the privilege.
After school, we were allowed to watch all we wanted while doing homework (and we were both honor students, so it obviously didn't hurt our grades or ability to learn) until supper time. After supper, the tv was under the control of the adults.

When I was in middle school, we got a tv for our room. We were allowed to watch whatever we wanted until bedtime, but we still had to compromise over what to watch. Any fighting over it, and the tv was taken away.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I can't recall any rules as a child. I remember playing Nintendo for hours and hours on the weekends/summer. And there was always Saturday morning cartoons. But, I don't feel my parents had a reason to limit it. My homework was always done (usually with the TV on), I had extremely high grades, I participated in a lot of sports, and while I remember the hours of TV and video game playing, I also remember the hours spent outside riding my bike every where, meeting friends, and "be home by dinner".

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

We had no limits on TV growing up. We watched whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. In general I think "oldest ruled", so I got a lot of MTV from a young age ;) My dad would tend to take precedence when he came home, but luckily he liked to watch sitcoms and we would all watch as a family (Cosby Show, Silver Spoons, Family Ties, Bosom Buddies... later Roseanne, Wonder Years, and Seinfeld... I even remember my youngest sisters getting him hooked on those Disney tween shows in the 90's). We also watched sports and teams my dad liked.

My mom would join us for Jeopardy and movies, but otherwise did not exert television preference. The exception was once a year when she would order us a pizza and commandeer the TV for the Academy Awards.

The prevalence of VCR's (starting around 3rd grade for me) really revolutionized our TV watching- we could tape things we liked and watch it whenever we had a chance. Or over and over and over. That took most of the power struggle out of it.

I pretty much follow suit with my own family. It's nice that my kids are getting older we can watch some shows together now. Anything too "adult" we save til after the kids go to bed and watch it up in our room. We also have a TV in the kid's playroom, but honestly they prefer to come out in the front room and watch on the big TV. I see TV as a social thing anyway. Of course I also enjoy a good show or movie just for myself now and then. But I have a lot fond memories of watching TV with my parents and siblings growing up. Shows and movies we loved, quotes and references we still laugh about and share to this day. So I don't put rules on it, we just follow our instinct on content and quantity.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lakeland on

Boy times have changed.

Growing up we only had one TV and it was black and white, we couldn't afford a color television, it also had rabbit ears and we only got about 5 channels. It was the wealthy that had remote controls, cable, etc. back then.

Like you I was not limited in watching or what I watched. Usually after school it was cartoons and on Saturday morning. In the evenings it was family shows (parents choice) and Saturday afternoon it was the old movies (Godzilla, Tarzan, King Kong, etc.).

If at anytime the adults wanted to watch o for you to turn it off we listened without complaint and people always came first.

My daughter would watch once in a while before the age of 6 and now she can become obsessed with certain programs. She also watches YouTube which is just shorter programs. I find I need to limit her or she will watch 24/7, I also keep tract of what she is watching. Not all shows now are appropriate for children where that was not the case when I was a kid.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Parents first, no TV after a certain hour, only certain shows (my mom did not like Beatlejuice). We had 1 TV, too, also with no remote. We had to manually tune it to UHF channels and turn the rooftop antenna (we thought that was snazzy) to get Star Trek from Baltimore. Cable didn't even come down our road til I was almost out of HS.

DD can watch TV if it's appropriate, if her HW is done, if she hasn't watched it all day (sick days excepted), and if it's not hindering her eating or dressing, and it's not bothering anyone else (like don't turn on the kitchen TV if I'm on the phone in there).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

We had two TV's to start. They were both colour and we had cable, so about 8 channels. No remotes. My parents controlled the livingroom TV and my teenaged siblings controlled the recroom TV. I later got my own TV in my room and we got a VCR for the livingroom. There were always TV's on in the house growing up, and I watched a fair bit, although I usually preferred to be outside with my friends. There were no limits. My grandparents had 1 set with "farmer vision" (2 channels). I was not allowed to touch that TV!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

Oh wow...take me down memory lane! Dad had first channel choice first and if he didn't care for the show that was on, he would say, "Change it". No TV before chores.

My husband and I just had a conversation about old shows vs new shows last night. He said there weren't any "bad" shows on when we were growing up. That prompted me to ask him if Carol Burnett, Flip Wilson, Cher, and scenes from Dallas and Dukes of Hazard, could have had any naughty connotations that we just didn't get at the time. He smiled and let go of his argument.

Back to the rules or assignments, change the channel, adjust the screen, move the antenna, and dust it.

I'm glad we have remotes today, but if we didn't, I wouldn't hesitate to get up and do this stuff on my own.

Yay for liberation...Oh, that was another question some time ago.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

We had varying rules in our household (my mother married multiple times and tended to let her husbands make the rules), but the constant was always my grandparents house-- and the rules were just like those you grew up with.

At our home we don't have the tv on during the day unless it's a pretty deliberate choice-- like having it on while I fold clothes or sort bills or something like that. The rule is that the person who is working in that space gets first choice as to what is watched. Same with the radio... if I'm in the kitchen cooking and Kiddo complains about NPR or some jazz or something, he can put on what he likes in his room. He earns his media time (tv/computers) and so he turns in 'tickets' when he wants to do those things. In our family, for now, this is what works for us.

My husband and I probably watch about 2 hours in the evenings, up in our room. (We have a tv in the living room as well.) We are pretty careful about discriminating in what we watch around him otherwise (cooking shows, some vintage TV shows, educational/PBS stuff) but not inflexible. But the rule is, also, that if we have a hard time with turning off the tv or a video game then we don't get to do that activity for at least a few days, or we make it so that he has to earn back that privilege.

We aren't being super-strict, just trying to set up some expectations and parameters as to what is 'reasonable' behavior in these situations. Personally, I find it really distracting to visit people in the house where the tv is always on. It gets on my nerves after a while. If I want background noise, there are plenty of other choices.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

My sister & I had limited screen time as kids (Friday night, Saturday morning, maybe an hour after school - maybe). Otherwise, my rules (and circumstances) were very similar to yours. Home computers were not a thing then.

Now, for my kids, we do Friday night and Saturday morning TV. They know they get this & anything else is "extra". They can lose Friday or Saturday if they behave badly. They watch Netflix streaming and PBS kids via Apple TV. Sometimes we buy shows. We don't do commercial TV. Saves a lot of hassle! My husband and I take shows off the "allowed" list if we see bad behavior after the kids watch them.

Saturday night is video game night. Same rules for behavior, and the games are still usually purchased by me and my husband, so no unapproved games.

The boys do get to watch shows or play games at other times during the week, but that is dependent on what my husband and I need to get done. That's always "extra" and we, the parents, say if it happens. There is no reward system for screen time during the week, since it's usually not gonna happen.

I guess it seems kind of strict as I write it down but we see lots of behavior problems around screen time. My oldest is only 10, so we'll see as he and his brothers get older.

ETA: When my boys get TV time, they each get to pick a show, one to 3 shows each, depending on the time. The shows without commercials are usually about 20 minutes long. My husband and I watch "our" shows after the boys go to bed.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Sounds like my house :-) those were our rules too. We got a second TV when I was in HS.

We have video time after lunch. I like to have a schedule for us since we homeschool. Morning is for outings, etc. And they can do media after lunch.

We have one TV in the rec room.eventually I'd like a TV in my bedroom so I can workout without kids under foot. But a TV will never be in our main living space. We just don't watch TV. We're more of a computer family, there are tablets everywhere, and we have 4 computers and 4 tablets for 5 people.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

When I wsa growing up, we had one TV. And it was not bigger than the person watching it. It actually fit in the corner of the room. And yes you had to get off you butt to change the channel. And there were not a lot of channels either. 2 channels were dedicated to Spanish language. We watched what we were allowed to watch. We kind of had control for Saturday morning cartoons. Once those were over, you were stuck with sports stuff or boring movies so you went outside. And sign off was at midnight with the Star Spangled Banner. If my mom or dad wanted to watch something, our TV time was over unless we wanted to watch too.

We have one TV now, though it is bigger than my youngest. I hate the stupid thing. But it can keep them from fighting for a while--especially in the evening when going out is not an option. My 3 yr old loves Scooby Doo. And my 6 yr old loves Disney so they do get into rounds (one reason I am totally looking forward to cutting cable quite a bit next month). And heaven forbid that remote disappears into the couch or kitchen or wherever it happens to go.

1 mom found this helpful
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