18 Apr
No More Screen Time Playdates

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

I try really hard to limit TV and computer screen time with my kids. But when I set up playdates for them, I usually find out that they are just watching TV over at their friend’s house. Isn’t the point of a playdate to PLAY with a friend? If I wanted my kid to watch more TV, I could have just kept them home. Why do other parents do this? It makes me crazy. How do I made sure that my kids are actually interacting while on playdates and not just sitting in front of the TV like zombies? I can’t have every playdate at my house.


No Screen Mom


Dear No Screen,

I’ve been where you are now.  And by “you,” I mean “the other parent.”  Because I’ve invited my children’s friends over and yes, I’ve let them watch TV.  I didn’t want to at first, but then my kids told me that the other moms were allowing it, and I just wanted to badly to fit in. I didn’t want to be the one mom who didn’t let the kids watch TV and play video games and therefore be unhip and old and mocked.

Kids like TV.  Parents like to make kids happy.  So imagine my surprise when I learned that there are actual parents who don’t let their children watch TV, and limit screen time in general.

Apparently such mythical creatures really exist.   There have been sightings. Unconfirmed, but still.

If you are  indeed one of them and it is working for your family, that’s great!  But know that you can no more impose what the children do over at someone else’s house than the other parents can dictate what activities you set up for the playdates at your house.   Their house, their rules.  There are limits, of course.  If their rules include target practice, I’d applaud your resistance.  But if it’s an hour of TV, let it go.

From my own watching the kids while they’re watching TV experience, I can tell you that the kids do interact while watching iCarly. It  may inspire them to develop their own web show!  Or at least make snarky comments to each other, laugh together and just hang out.  Sure, screen time is frowned upon by many of today’s experts, but I was weaned on Little House on the Prairie and Eight is Enough and I’m a perfectly well-adjusted adult. With four TVs in my home, but still.

Of course there is nothing wrong with telling the other parents that you are limiting screen time and asking for their support.  A simple, “I prefer that Jack doesn’t watch TV during the week” when setting up a playdate is an easy way to alert the host to the issue. If she picks up on your cues, great.  Otherwise, you’ll have to decide if the TV watching is a playdate deal breaker.

Good luck!

Marinka, TMH

15 Responses to “No More Screen Time Playdates”


Comment by N and Em's mom.

I would be more sensitive to your plight, but I have been planning my upcoming royal wedding weekend complete with phone calls to my friends from high school. Many years ago, we all got up at 3:00 am to watch Princess Diana get married to what’s his name and called each other to talk about it as soon as it was daylight. It was a bonding experience. After school, we spent many hours watching really crappy TV- Gilligan’s Island, Brady Bunch, Partridge Family, etc. These days, I have little time for crappy TV, but still find time for my friends.


Comment by calliope.

I personally don’t agree with allowing kids to spend a ton of time on the PC or watching television. An hour a day? Sure, but 4 hours a day? No, sorry, I don’t care how much bonding a kid can do over iCarly. I’ve seen it, it’s a dumb show, like most shows for kids over the age of 10 nowadays, and frankly, I’d rather my kid be reading a book or writing a story or playing a sport.
However, I do agree that you can’t really try to dictate what another parent allows in their home for a playdate (within reason, duh).
So, if the tv/pc restriction is this important to you, I’d say that if you know your child is watching tv at a friend’s house, simply tell then that they are using their daily tv allotment for the day. TV during the playdate means no tv that day at home.

NZ Reply:

This makes sense.


Comment by Karin.

I try not to let the kids watch tv on playdates (unless that was the point of the playdate – sometimes we’ll have a friend over for a movie). Sometimes they will want to and it’s the kids whose parents restrict tv that are the worst at wanting to watch it. Now, I’m pretty strict about tv – it causes arguments in my house – between me and the kids and the kids among themselves – so we don’t watch it except on the weekends. I try to make the playdate fun for the kids though so sometimes I’ll let them watch a little bit in a transition period (waiting for lunch, waiting for pick-up) but I actually encourage the Wii instead – games tend to go over well.


Comment by Plano Mom.

We have a game room with a 52 inch flat screen TV and a juice-stocked refrigerator. It also comes with a WII and age appropriate games. One thing I have found is my son and his friends will have the TV on for quite some time, however they won’t be paying attention to it – they’ll be playing with Legos or even running in and outside, pausing only for a few minutes to watch and comment on the TV. When they’re staring at the screen for more than 20 minutes, they’re usually tired from playing outside, or hungry, or any other number of reasonable explanations for sitting in front of the boob tube. Take care of the reason for the break, and they’re off again. I don’t make a big deal about the TV, and neither do they.

Plano Mom Reply:

Oh, but I do need to confess that I have a list of cartoons that are so mind numbingly stupid, they are banned from our house.

Karin Reply:

me too!


Comment by BuenoBaby.

I don’t have a problem with moms who let my kid watch TV during a play date at their house. Play dates are supposed to be fun and if fun means watching Madagascar for the 97th time then watch away. My grievance is with the moms who set-up elaborate craft projects and then spend the whole afternoon helping my kid glitter glue a tote bag. This is a dangerous precedent to establish for the underachieving moms like myself.

NZ Reply:

Organized craft activities are for school and camp. At home? Is playtime. Unless they are capable of Doing the project and cleaning up with minimal input from me it’s not happening.


Comment by StephanieG.

I actually hope my kid watches the mind numbingly bad cartoons someplace else. That way, she sees them on somebody else’s watch and I don’t have to sit through them!!

And I’m totally with Bueno on this. Playdates at my house are pretty much “do-whatever-you-want” sort of affairs, and the moms who have schedules and arts and crafts and snacks make me look lazy as hell.


Comment by Stasha.

I don’t watch any TV. Once a month I might sit through a foreign movie. But as a teenager I sat in front of it lots. You can blame BBC for my British accent.
My three year old watches his shows for an hour a day. He is picking up Spanish and knows incredible amount of random facts I have to Google myself.
As for play dates: If anyone is sweet enough to take my kid off from me for a couple of hours I will say thank you. Clearly I know these people, so I am sure he will be in good hands. But what they do is up to them…


Comment by Alex@LateEnough.

I think that it depends on the age of the kids whether it’s annoying or appropriate.

What I hate is if the person I’m paying to babysit my kids let’s my kids watch the TV or play with her iPhone while I’m gone. Um, that’s MY FREE BABYSITTER, LADY.


Comment by Alexandra.

Yes. good in theory.

But be prepared to hear a lot of harumphing and sighing from the other mom when you ask for cooperation.

Moms, it seems, consider playdates a free for all nintendo/computer/wii time.


Comment by TV?.

I’m one of those really weird people that don’t even own a TV. We just got used to not having one while overseas and now it doesn’t bother us. I won’t blame my kid one bit for obsessively watching TV at other kids houses. Get my hubby and I in front of one and it doesn’t matter what is on we are totally distracted.


Comment by Do My Playdates Need to be Screenfree? | The Mouthy Housewives.

[…] the mom called me to confirm that I’ll pick both boys after school and to “make sure there won’t be any screen time” when they are here. I was so taken aback by her question, I didn’t quite have a […]

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