Should Parents Feel Guilty For Using TV As A Babysitter?


In today's hectic life, parents find themselves having just not quite enough time in the day and the TV becomes a regular 'babysitting' fixture in the household…. Hence "Screen Guilt" is common for many parents.

But is it a necessary evil to turn on that Disney Flick again for the 500 times so that dinner can get on the table, and the house work can get finished? Do you feel like a bad parent because your kids are watching too much pointless TV and Movies?

Should Parents Feel Guilty For Using TV As A Babysitter?

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  1. Kristin Isler says

    No. My child mostly uses the tv as background noise, kind of like I use to do as a kid with the radio. He's usually playing with toys and not paying any attention to what's on the tv.

  2. Josh Bryson says

    sometimes I feel bad.. but I think as long as it's not a all the time thing and just a "need to get this done" thing then it is ok to plop them in front of the tube-sitter. really I think it comes down to a personal choice that each parent needs to set their own rules and guidelines about how much tv/movies is too much.

  3. alyasa nuh says


  4. Terrence Lui says

    I watched a lot of TV growing up. Probably more than average. Ended up going to an Ivy League college and I have a good career. So I don't think that TV by itself is "evil". Like almost anything, just a matter of how you use it.

  5. colin woolston says

    Yeah this is a daily topic in my household. We limit TV use, but now that is creating the idea that TV is a reward. And to a child a reward is better than just about anything else.
    If we give our son unlimited access to shows that we approve of, then he wants to watch it less and values his play time more. Unfortunately I'm still unable to sell my wife on this point.
    I've seen a lot of studies come down the social network pipe that say TV is bad, TV is bad for kids under 2, an hour of TV a day is ok… Really, tho… How bad is it? My son started watching shows when he was 1 or so. He is not showing any signs at all of having been hindered in his development. In fact he's very advanced.
    I would love to hear some opinions on this for sure.
    If I had my druthers I'd let him watch it whenever he wanted (or rather whenever I need to get stuff done)…

  6. Bryan Fuselier says

    Not at all. They don't watch any more tv than I watched as a child. They do play video games quite a bit, but we do make them play educational ones just as much as the ones they want to play.

  7. Joshua Talley says

    One of my friends chided me once for playing a game with his kids, saying, "Can you please entertain them with something that doesn't have a screen?"

  8. Steve Mayne says

    The BBC have a couple of advert-free stations for kids which are very good and largely educational. The only TV I have an issue with is the stuff laced with adverts and product placement.

  9. Xin Li says

    The only thing is, what could you have been doing with the child instead of TV that might be better for his development. I have a 23 month old that's turning 2 in less then a month, and we try to limit TV time, if not out right ban it. Before she turned 1, there was no TV period. If she was up, there was no TV in the house. But around 18 months, I've relaxed that standard. Sometimes she gets to watch some educational programs like hi 5, and mickey mouse club house, blues clues. It's kind of a reward for her, if she does things right.

    I don't mind using the TV as a component of bringing up your child. There's a lot of good stuff on TV, even for kids. But it cannot be a crutch or an easy out because you are engaged in lazy parenting. Sometimes circumstances leave you with no alternatives but to use the TV, and that's fine. Every parent will run into that situation, no matter how dedicated they are. For me, it's just a matter of lets be honest with yourself about why you are letting your child watch the TV.

  10. Sarah Knowles says

    when don't parents feel guilty about anything they let their child do that may not be text book. My 2yo can watch toy story from start to credits, in saying that, she can also watch a documentary about the human brain and be just as engrossed. Jayde will get up and play with toys when she feels. I'm not worried.

  11. ParentingExtra says

    Guilty? Absolutely not!
    Careful? Definitely!

    Sometimes you can't avoid the digital babysitter, and a 20 minute slot near dinnertime might be needed to get them out from under your feet.

    However, screen time for the "under 2s" should be very limited (and always supervised!)

    Older kids can benefit from some carefully selected programming, but watch out for exposure to commercials (it'll come back to bite you!).
    You might think you're depositing your little one in front of half an hour of saccharin-TV, but most networks aren't too careful about age-appropriate commercial slots. I'm not talking about #TrueBlood clips here, but you'd be surprised how little it takes to upset a 4-year-old.

    Set sensible limits, but watch out for using "the box" as a reward item.

  12. Becca Gibbs says


  13. Jon Pederson says

    You wouldn't live for years in a country without learning the language, would you? That's how I think of TV, movies and some online games – it's staying in touch with culture. You don't want your kids to go into the world and bring a hundred conversations to a screeching halt with "no, I don't know what you're talking about; we didn't watch much TV growing up".

  14. Amanda Blain says

    We are currently working on a startup company contest (in 72 hours on a bus travelling across USA mind you)…. and have created this product called PopcornU – An app that goes along with your childs favorite movies…. At appropriate points during movie playback, PopcornU pauses the movie and waits for your child's interaction, on a variety of topics like math, health, money useage etc… giving positive feedback and rewarding points for each correct answer. … I'd love some feedback on it.. πŸ™‚

  15. Carlos Ochoa says

    + Amanda Blain Your question really should be, "Do parents feel guilty" not "Should they feel guilty?". Who's to say whether they should or should not?

  16. Lawrence Brown says

    I have a better question. Should the 1% feel guilty for forcing the 99% to work so damn hard? One income doesn't cut it in most families. With that said, both parents have to work extra hard, extra hours just to get by. I say increase the wages across the board so people can cut back on all the overtime and actually get a chance to be a "good" parent. Oh and for the record, cutting TV out completely isn't the answer either. Just wanted to throw my $0.02USD in. + Crixus Spaulding #Muted

  17. ParentingExtra says

    + Amanda Blain Sounds a bit like #Dora (which just waits for you to nod your head, or scream "Behind the TREE, can't you SEE it" – I suppose a lot would depend on how they intent to capture the child's interaction.

    Sounds interesting though.
    Remember the "choose your own adventure" series…

  18. Jera Wolfe says

    I felt other parents were bad for doing that.
    My daughter uses the computer. She gets television through that.
    But she also spends her time equally in learning games, educational websites, and kids games, when she is on the computer. She also rides her bike, plays with friends, and does arts and crafts and other projects with me and my mother.

    Do I feel T.V. as a babysitter is bad. Absolutely. I would never recommend it, and if I did it, or if I feel she's watching too much entertainment even on the internet, I do something WITH my child.

    I tell the world to wait, or I give her a suggestion to go do something else, to do something fun.

    Would I rip on another parent who does this? No. Most are single parents, and they have to deal with every aspect of life, a life they generally try not to make a problem or burden for the young child trying to get hopes and dreams going.

    So are they really bad parents? I don't know. I wouldn't do it, but I have a wife, and we work together on this. I couldn't imagine trying to do this alone. And many a brave parent has. It sucks. Last thing they need is adding some bigoted half-assumed judgement to their list of problems. Because if I was judging them without ever walking their path, that's what I'd be doing.

    If it was evidently and clearly harmful to the child, I might suggest other ways of entertaining the child that were productive, without ever bringing up that T.V. was bad.

  19. Lori Friedrich says

    I had a whole diatribe typed out, only posting part of it here. Suffice to say there are times when they are young and cannot be left alone for very long that (in my book) are okay to use this technique.

    You are home with your toddler, and sorely in need of a quick shower. Your husband won't be home for hours. There is a tv and dvd player in the family room that can keep the toddler occupied for 15 minutes so you can be human again. Yes, you put on Elmo or Toy Story, feel guilty as you hit the play button, but you go take the darn shower. It is called self-preservation.

    For the most part, if you need to get things done, and you are the only adult home, use the time to engage them in what you are doing. Not every moment is a learning experience, but if you make it into a game with them, they can learn and have fun at the same time, and you can get still get your stuff done. Are they learning colors? Great! They can point to all the blue clothes in the laundry pile. Are they learning to count? Then their job is count the number of socks you pull out of the dryer, or plates that get put away from the dishwasher, etc. Worst case? Grab a box of crayons and some paper and let them draw you doing your chore of choice.

    Being a Mom is a full-time job, usually on top of another full-time job. I know in my case, I tried to make the most out of the time I had with the kiddo. Guilt comes in all shapes and sizes.

  20. sean conley says

    i think everyone should feel guilty for using tv period.

  21. Nick Markwell says

    We (my mom, my sister, and I) tend to leave TV on as background noise, but my niece tends not to watch it much. She usually only actually watches it for an hour or so in the morning, and an hour or so before (sometimes during, but we usually turn it off before) dinner.

    I feel that using it as a "babysitter" is bad…but I feel watching it with them is probably actually good, if you keep it sane (kid-friendly shows, probably only an hour or two a day, etc).

    + colin woolston I feel like the main issues would be social, not intellectual. The whole "why have friends, when this is amusing enough?" deal, you know? (I know 40 year olds with that problem…)

    + Joshua Talley some video games are very beneficial in moderation (as are most things). I try to play an hour of something that requires using my brain, but also requires using both the mouse and keyboard, every couple days. Generally ends up being Portal 2 or World Of Goo πŸ™‚ My niece plays Rock Band with my sister (her mother) every couple days, hoping to find something that she does more than beating a stick against a piece of plastic, but she has fun.

    + Jera Wolfe what kind of things do you do with her on the computer? I'm trying to find some stuff to do with my niece, but not much luck. She's about 2.5 years old.

    + Amanda Blain that sounds pretty neat, I'll take a look after dinner πŸ™‚


  22. Brittany Constable says

    I watched a LOT of TV growing up, especially movies on VHS. I also read a ton and was deeply involved in extracurriculars, and graduated at the top of my class in high school.

    If it's all the kid ever does or wants to do, that's a problem. Nothing in excess and all. But TV isn't inherently evil.

  23. Jordan Oram says

    I think it's not the TV itself but how it's used. Sounds like you're working on an interesting development! I'm excited to hear more. It reminds me of how TV can be used for such a wide range of communication, and when the top series of the past decade was picked BBC's Planet Earth was #1. That is a brilliant show and idea of what TV can be πŸ™‚ They're all just tools that we get to choose how we use.

  24. Jason ON says

    I don't have any children, but I remember being a latchkey kid with the TV until "mommy got home." I didn't like it then and I'd like to think it's something that I would make every effort not to do with my children, should I ever have any.

  25. sean conley says

    + Brittany Constable i did too, but i feel like times have changed. wouldn't you agree there were less commercials and more interestin/education content when we were kids?
    and with the internet, i feel like you can just watch an episode of something and then go do something else.
    tv is never-ending/nonstop. it's like if you leave food in a goldfish bowl, the goldfish will eat itself to death because it doesn't know when to stop.
    and yes everything in excess of course, we dont even have cable at my house.

  26. Nise Niah says

    I would say it depends on how much TV is being used as a babysitter, if your children are watching TV more than they are playing with you or other children. Than yes its a very bad thing to allow, and I do agree on what programs they are watching too. Thats where the parents need to be responsible and ensure its education for them, otherwise turn the TV off. ( Just saying is all )

  27. kim john says


  28. Anwar JJ says

    yes i`m with you,it`s very bad for kids and i`m one of the kids which have the same thing,it`s bad very bad. turn the tv off now and for ever,but ofcourse for kids only.

  29. Carl Ledenetz says

    progress is inevitable

  30. Amanda Blain says

    There are lots of variables involved for sure.. Like what are they watching.. and for how long… we hope to address some of this with + PopcornU

  31. Blair Warner says

    Yes, Amanda, Many variable involved, like you mentioned. I have a lot of thoughts on this, but no time to share now. Thanks for sharing.

  32. Frank Vargus says

    They need their T.V. But they also have to use their minds on other things. I as a child back in the 1950's I did watch a little more than i should have. But i am guilty of the baby sitter thing. I say yes they they should feel guilty.

  33. ParentingExtra says

    + Amanda Blain + PopcornU Well it's off to a great start so far…

    DD7: Mom, can I have the iPad again…
    Mom: NO. I'm using it.
    DD7: But MOM, it's *ED*ucational…. Don't worry – I'll give it back when the battery dies.


  34. Chris Session says

    Tv is ok but not for sitting only for recreation

  35. Kirk Kinnell says

    I feel bad but mine will be in school soon

  36. Kirk Kinnell says

    So there won't be as much babysitting

  37. John Mitchell says

    My wife and I don't feel guilty of this, because we don't do it.
    And the small amount we might do it is so small as to be of very little concern.
    We have six kids at home and another two every second weekend, so we often use the older kids to run minor distraction at times. Aged two, five, eight, ten, eleven, twelve, fourteen, and sixteen, the oldest three being girls.
    We don't have cable or satellite TV service.
    We actually just got wimax broadband the beginning of February.
    We have subscribed to Netflix, and in the past we had bought a reasonable selection of good kid TV shows, and movies. Walking with Dinosaurs by the BBC was the only TV needed for a long time with our five year old son.
    Now they will sit in state of entrancement during Zoobomafoo. Long enough to shower.
    One movie and one show per day.
    Even up to two movies a day and 2 hours of good children's TV would not be a problem.
    We are practically buried under books for every age, there are five ereaders running here as well.

    We live in a wee tiny hamlet in the country with a huge well treed yard so out they go to play.
    Till summer they can only play in the front yard due to coyotes eating peoples dogs in broad daylight. The back yard is against the fields.

  38. Avery Mcfall says


  39. Sachin Amin says


  40. Avery Mcfall says

    oh my gosh!

  41. Blair Warner says

    My kids are currently 12.14,16, and almost 18, and we have NEVER had cable nor watched T.V. shows. We have only watched movies on family/movie night during the school year, and during summers and holidays a little extra. For the last 9 years I have raised them alone as a widower, too boot. There is no need to use the T.V. to babysit. That said, I can understand it if time is limited and shows are appropriately monitored for age level. Regardless, it should be a well thought out aspect of ones child rearing goals and routine, not haphazardly approached.

  42. Keith Old says

    Yes, Stop being lazy and actually be parents to your kids. Spend time with them, teach them, read to them, feed them real food, inspire and motivate them. BE A PARENT. If you can't do that don't have them.

  43. Sonya Vasquez says

    I do feel guilty, but they have to eat and have clean clothes. sometimes i let my baby help put the clothes in the dryer lol you know while im putting them in hes taking them out…:)

  44. Charlotte Potaka-Pulman says

    SKY these days is full of educational programmes for them to watch..I stop and watch what he's watching to make sure it's ok every now and then, and its so educational that there's no problem that he watches it while tea is getting cooked (or getting housework done, or just for them to have some settle down time). It's better than him coming into the ktichen and getting under my feet while I am carrying hot pots and dishes from oven to bench!

  45. Jed Grant says

    Not always, but sometimes. Have to make sure they get enough exercise, nutrition, books and social experience then TV is ok as a baby sitter. πŸ™‚

  46. Stephen Jennings says

    Should we no, do we YES!! I think you have to balance the shows and time spent in front of the TV. I don’t have any answers for this. Although, I was thinking of using nodejs/HTML5 to create some games using her spelling words and a little math to help curb the amount of time in front of the tube.

  47. Justin Mahan says

    tv = brainwashing kids , just look at how kids act now and treat there parents all you got to do is look at MTV

  48. Melissa Fairchild says

    My oldest needs to be limited with tv time… My youngest is way too active to sit still long. They are monitored and limited to which shows and movies they are allowed to see. They are sweethearts though and when we say no to tv they just turn it off without a problem.. My husband and I have no guilt on this subject. πŸ™‚

  49. Aaron Hamlett says

    I am 49 years old and TV was my babysitter. This is new how?

  50. Shawn Cormican says

    Bad is a perspective of a definition…
    remember parents…
    you are given the privilege of being parents…
    do your best… make mistakes… be personable…
    do your best again…
    your kids innocently believe in you,,,
    not someone Else's opinions…
    as parents we naturally want whats best for our children…
    only focus on success…
    envision the success of your kids…
    at a very young age they understand sacrifice…and commitment…
    feelings of guilt are selfish…
    you have a job to do…

  51. Shaun Wakefield says

    While the TV is a distraction it can also be a very good educational tool if used right.

  52. Justin Mahan says

    + Shaun Wakefield tv is used to get people's mind off of whats REALLY going on in the world , thats why the globalists created it , its all controlled

  53. Wayne Easton says

    I must admit it is convenient at times to put a movie on for my kids, but really what I should be doing is spending quality time with them…. Television can certainly steal family time very easily if we let it….

  54. Joshua Mesch says

    quick answer: YES! get off your a** and spend time with your kid.

  55. Joshua Mesch says

    Or if you're genuinely occupied begin the lifeskills and self-motivational processes by teaching your kid a hobby or encouraging them to explore their unique and real-world interests so they learn SKILLS and their body/mind/brain coordination is advanced, not just sitting their sucking on the Great Pacifier.

  56. colin woolston says

    + Joshua Mesch , I wish it were all that simple. Idealistically you are correct, but one has to include the perspective of, say, me: I work full time, and my wife works part time in the evenings. I come home from work and I am responsible for the well being of my two young children (3 months and 2 1/2 years). This means dinner has to be cooked and the dishes need done and the laundry and the sweeping and the bills etc etc etc… I am an organized person and I have systems for all of these things, but cooking dinner while holding an infant is difficult enough, let alone finding a new activity for my 2 yr old every 5 minutes, which is about what his attention span can be on a normal day. Therefore, when dinnertime comes, I let my son watch an age appropriate television show for 30 minutes so I only have to focus on one child while I also prepare a nutritious meal for the two of us (+ leftovers for my dear wife when she comes home). Obviously I have no room for idealism in this routine, and I have to resort to pragmatic thinking.
    Enter + Amanda Blain 's idea where the child can interact with the shows more actively. Now shows like this exist, but not quite in the format that is being discussed here. Amanda I would definitely look for this type of show for my son, as he's very interested in interaction and it's something that most children's shows do not readily supply. I have lots of ideas for content, but I'm sure you have that covered, Amanda.

  57. Melissa Fairchild says

    I think that we as parents feel judged a lot of the time. In reality, if we focus more on each individual child, I believe that we would find that the amount of time a child is in front of the tv will vary. Please bear with me… I'm not feeling so well today so my thoughts are slightly jumbled.

    I have an 8 year old daughter who has always loved parking herself in front of the tv for as long as we will allow her. We take her interest of sitting in front of a screen and instead, we allow her access to educational computer and video games. She is learning, knows that she is learning and loves the idea of having fun while she learns.

    My 5 year old daughter is the complete opposite. Sometimes I would love to have her sit for a half hour in front of the tv. Would she do it? No… She is completely hands on learning. She requires complete supervision every moment of the day. Simply turning around to cook dinner before the husband gets home from work could prove disastrous. Instead of fretting or simply waiting to cook dinner, I have her help me. She has a ball and we make one big mess together.

  58. colin woolston says

    + Melissa Fairchild this is an excellent comment. My wife is very good at including our son in the daily tasks that need to be performed, in which he is invariably interested.
    me? not as much. I'm far too impatient.

  59. Lexie Novis says

    when to cut the screen time
    nightmeres or cussing (that appear more than normal and r caused by it)
    bad grades (this counts Pe also)
    obsession (overly using and or talking about it)

    other than this tv and the internet dont cause any harm kids there r probably more pros than cons such as
    * connecting with peers
    *good job skills
    *connecting with there kids who will probably be even more techy

    ok the amount is equal but those pros r gaurenteed
    the cons only 1 will probabaly happen if any
    so id let them play any day

  60. Justin Aion says

    I'm with + colin woolston on that one. My wife is much better at including the girls in her activities, especially in the kitchen. Me, I am much more worried about the messes and spills.

  61. jasmine ferguson says

    yes they should

  62. Justin Aion says

    Well put, + jasmine ferguson . Did you read the article and wish to respond to specific points?

  63. Eric Branch says

    I am a member of the "all things in moderation" camp. My daughter is almost 5 and watches a bit every day. This is usually while mom and I are making dinner, sending out that last email of the day, etc. We certainly have family time and weekends are kept as open as possible for time together, so I don't feel guilty. She has her TV time but she also has Tae Kwon Do time, yoga time, school time, "homework" time, and family time.

  64. jasmine ferguson says

    yeah i did listen to this song birthday cake remix okay

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