Television: Here, There, Everywhere

Daytime TV and the Nanny
Television is so pervasive, easy to use, and always available. It has expanded from the living room and recreation room, to the bedroom, kitchen, and even the bathroom. The television is in grocery stores, cars, and waiting rooms. Television is here, there, and everywhere.

But, should nannies and au pairs turn on television programs while working? If so, when should nannies and au pairs turn the television off? Everyday this week we will focus on the effects of daytime television on the nanny or au pair and their charges.

Nannies and au pairs cannot turn on the television unless their employers allow them to use it during working hours. If the parents do not want their children to watch television than the nanny or au pair must not turn it on. Certainly live-in caregivers can watch television in their bedrooms when not working. But during the work day, nannies and au pairs can encourage imaginative play, educational activities, and free play to fill the day for the children.

It can be difficult for nannies and au pairs to start a job that does not allow them to watch the television. For many it will be the first time in their lives that they are asked not to turn on the television during the day. The temptation is compelling. Daytime television is an unparalleled babysitter. It is free, reliably available, and versatile. Undoubtedly, all children will view some TV and there are many educational programs, children’s programs, and age-appropriate movies to view. The television can also be something to listen to when a nanny or au pair may not have meaningful adult conversation during the day working with children. Whether used as entertainment or as white noise many caregivers are in the habit of keeping the television on all day.

But, is daytime television good for the children, or just for the nanny or au pair? Clearly there are whole categories of television that are inappropriate for children and of little value to the childcare provider. There is no debating that shows like “Jerry Springer” or “The Steve Wilkos Show” do not air behavior that children nor adults should model.

Children benefit most by doing the things that all kids need to do to be healthy and develop to their best potential: using their imagination, socializing, playing, exercising, eating, and sleeping. All these functions are accomplished best not in front of the television set. Plus, television should not be a reward because it soon becomes an addiction and can lead to an unhealthy “couch potato” lifestyle.

Of course, there are some programs that are appropriate and suitable for children, that are entertaining and educational.Those program choices should be decided by the parents and adhered to by the caregiver. The child should be having a life full of involved activity, not just watching others being active in television programs.

But, to make the day enjoyable for nannies, au pairs, and children is to plan fun activities. Children won’t even want to watch television if nannies and au pairs have other activities planned. Caregivers have the power to make each Monday board game day when they play at least one board game together. Nannies and au pairs can schedule Wednesdays as “Manners Day.” Each Wednesday the children cook with their caregiver, set a formal table, and play restaurant when everyone has to use their best manners. Fridays might make a great book day when nannies and children go to the library and read the books when they arrive home. Children will be planning what recipes to make and what games to play a week in advance. Who would turn on the television when they’re having this much fun?

Do you watch television while working during the day as a nanny or au pair? Do you allow the children to watch television while you are working?


  1. This irks me so much. The parents have the television on 24/7 when they are home on the weekends. When they are at work and I am with the children alone 50 to 55 hours per week we are asked not to watch more than 1 hr or tv per day!! Of course when the kids are at school I can have the television on while folding laundry and etc. How come so many parents are hypocrits?aupair Debbie

  2. I do not think parents are hypocrits as mentioned above as much as paying for child care and they can ask their employee to provide the child care they want them to do. They save tv for when they get home because they are tired after work too. Basically, if you do not like it then work for parents that do not mind their kids watching a little tv. No one argues a little bit is OK especially if it is appropraite: reading rainbow, barney, sesame street, history channel, and so on.

  3. I Have always confronted the parents by s asking what they do on the weekends so our schedules match and so the kids have consistency. If the child is old enough to tell me their schedule or what they did over the weekend I then reiterate that back and ask if that’s what they want me to do. Of there is conflict or tension I express it is a frustration and challenge for me to be up against a different set of rules. Always bring it back to the main reason.. The children not you. This has worked for me.

  4. Each family I’ve worked with for the past 20 yrs has had no tv time when I’m working with the children unless it’s at night on the weekend. If the nanny is good at setting the boundaries from the beginning with the children and it’s been agreed upon with the parents there shouldn’ve be any issues. It’s really about standing your ground. Yes, parents can be hypocritical and let the kids watch tv on their time and it can be super frustrating for us as nannies, but just keep thinking what’s best for the children on our time and follow through. We are making a difference and the children know it. We will see it later in their lives even if we don’t see it as much as we want to now.

  5. Although the parents allowed the children more television time than I did, particularly when they were young, we did have some TV or video time during the week. It was confined to 30 minutes during snack time. Other than that we were too busy playing, learning, exploring, getting out and being active. As the children moved into their teen years they were allowed more TV or video time by their parents. Typcially we had other things to do – activities, lessons, homework or just hanging out together – so TV wasn’t a big part of my interaction with them. Since their parents knew how my time with them was spent I think they were ok allowing more TV time in the evening or weekends.If mom was home during the day, which occasionally happened, she enjoyed having the TV on in the background. This wasn’t my typcial routine. However we did often have music of all types on while in the house during the day. I wanted to focus on what was best for the children and what I was there to do!

  6. I only watch TV on the job after all my household chores are done and the children are in school or napping.I do allow the children to watch TV-when they ask- because I feel it’s better to let them get it out of their system- and when they ask again- I can say- You already watched TV- lets do something else instead, you can watch more tomm. It has also helped to set the limits beforehand- so they know only one show and then we are going to do…Honestly I would not work for a family for 10+ hours a day who told me the children were NEVER allowed to watch TV while I was on duty.It’s just not realitic- IMO.Children enjoy watching TV! and there are ways you can incorporate it into a learning exp.I also feel children need that type of enjoyement too- and it does not always have to be educational.Every family I have worked for has told me to use my judgement. They know I try to keep a good balance to the day. If the children have done everything and are tired- we turn on a show. If it’s going to be a long rainy day- we borrow a movie from the library- to break up the day of not being able to play outside. If the children are sick- they can watch a movie. I like to keep most of the viewing to eduational or shows with good morals and values.One family DID allow their children to watch Sponge Bob- and I always cringed, as I felt they picked up bad things from that show.But since the parents allowed it- and it was on when I was there- I really just had to deal with it- and used that time to prepare a meal or tidy up.I am usually able to find the stories we read on DVD- and that helps to bring another dimension to help enhance the story.When we are not watching TV- we turn it off-so we can focus on what we are doing.

  7. I see Television like many other things in the child’s world: as a tool. This is how I discuss TV with the parents and the children. There are times and ages when TV can be very helpful and informative. Pre-readers, for example, can get a lot of benefit from watching “Between the Lion” and “Word World.” Not to mention putting on the close captioning during their favorite program. I think it benefits older children to watch programs that explore the world. But exploring ancient Egyptian ruins should never take precedence over exploring their own backyard.So limiting their exposure is my usual habit. Some days, the TV isn’t on all all. While if a child is home ill, or the weather is particularly bad, we may watch a couple programs or play more video games than usual. (I generally count “TV time” as any time spent in front of the set, which includes shows, DVDs, and video games, whether playing or just watching.) But not for more than an hour or so, then each child has to find something else to do.Like anything else in life, balance is the key. You want to teach children how to seek out and acquire all the good that the world has to offer, but still, ultimately, know how to engage and entertain themselves.

  8. We put in many long hours feeding infants and newborns sitting on the sofa. I feel the tv really is a great distraction for me while feeding the newborn or infant.But, I suppose playing music can be used too. Just something to listen to while logging many hours feeding infants.Natasha, Near Chicago

  9. As part of our interview process, we ask candidates how much TV they think a 1 year old should watch in a day, a three year old and a five year old.If their answers reflect overuse of TV, videos and game, we discuss our philosophy with them. We also discuss the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of no TV at all for children under 3 which cam out several years back and may have been modified. The best way to help children development is by interaction with a loving and knowledgeable adult. Judi MerlinA Friend of the Family Home Services, Inc.

  10. It bothers me that agency owners and parents think it’s so easy to not allow kids to watch a little tv each day because they are not the ones trying to juggle and multitask crying and cranky kids all day. Obviously choose shows wisely but not tv is ridiculous for 50 per week not to have a show or two.

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