The Electronic Babysitter

How Au Pairs and Nannies Can Monitor Proper Television Viewing For Children

Television can have positive effects on children if we use programs to educate. Parents, nannies, and au pairs can tape videos of programs that tie into the children’s school lessons, interests, or hobbies. For example, adults should tape a show on dinosaurs or the planets from a Science Channel, a show about Christopher Columbus on the History Channel, a show about a favorite basketball player on ESPN, or look for ballets and concerts to tape for young dancers and musicians from the Public Broadcasting Channel.

Take advantage of the fact that many young children love to watch a favorite video over and over. If the parents agree and the video is age-appropriate and educational in-home childcare providers won’t have to worry about monitoring a video that the parents have already approved as appropriate for the children to watch.

When children are excited about a show they have seen on the television, follow up by taking them to the library and borrow books on the same topic. Compare how books and television programs on the same subject are different and similar.

Don’t assume that all cartoons are age-appropriate for children. Many daytime programs like soap operas and talk shows aren’t appropriate for young children. Tape your daytime shows and watch them when you are not working.

Talk with the children about the shows they see. Discuss what was good about a television program and what was bad in the show. Help children understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Television is also a powerful tool for selling and promoting toys and products.

Turn off the television during meals and when friends are visiting. Don’t allow school aged children to watch television until their homework is done, their pets are taken care of, they have practiced their musical instruments, and their daily chores are completed.

The goal is to allow children to watch only an hour of television a day. This may be a challenge at first, but is easier if you let the children help you decide what programs they are allowed to watch each day. You are a role model for children so refrain from making the television your primary recreation.

Children may balk at first at making changes in their viewing habits. You have to be prepared to stick it out by having many fun and interesting alternatives to television. You will be encouraged to reduce television viewing once you see the results. Not only will you see the children develop and grow, your bond with the children will increase as you do activities together.

What shows are your charges allowed to watch?


  1. Finally you admit that certain programs and videos are appropriate! I am happy that you might think a little bit of tv is ok. I have felt like a terrible nanny reading everyone’s commets the past couple days because everyone keeps saying that I have to pry the kids away from tv. It is simply routine in the home I work in. The mother lets them watch tv when they wake up so she can get ready for work. I arrive in the middle of cartoons. The children come down to eat breakfast at end of show. It works with the current schedule.After school (pre-school) we have lunch and naptime. One of the daughters is getting too old for nap so then I let it be rest time. I often read books to her in her bed or on the sofa if she won’t sleep. But, I also like to prepare dinner and do laundry during naptime. If she won’t sleep I have put on a video during that time so I can do the laundry and prepare dinner during that nap/rest time.I am not sure the parents even care if they watch tv so I don’t feel guilty at all!?! I mean I do not allow them to watch inappropriate tv shows. When kids are at preschool I have the tv on news and soaps and talk shows, but they aren’t around so aren’t being negatively effected by the shows. Ruby, Cedar Grove, NJ

  2. The kids can watch just about anything on Nick or Noggin. Favorite movies include Harry Potter, High School Musical, and so on. It is pretty disturbing how much tv they are allowed to watch tv but I am not going to change the rules if the parents allow it. You know?Nanny Sara, Boston area

  3. When the children were very young (toddlers or preschoolers) we confined our 30 minutes or less of TV to PBS programing like Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers and the like. As early grade schoolers they enjoyed winding down after school with Arthur or part of a Disney video. Now as teens and young adults they are free to choose from almost anything out there. It’s good to see them making thoughtful choices among the “junk” that TV has to offer. They still like public television and cable shows that have some aspects of learning (Discovery or History Channel programs) – it’s the main dish in their TV diet. But like others their age they do sample some of the more “junky” shows from time to time. I look at TV like your daily diet – eat to much junk and feel yucky . . . . eat a balanced diet and a little junk now and then won’t hurt you much.

  4. Shannon Stelzer Louisville KYNot until after dinner and baths. Most of tv today only confuses them. I am there to engage them. Although this summer I am planning some movie days for rainy afternoons, but they will be old movies that I enjoyed as a kid, such as Bed Knobs and Broomsticks, Never Ending Story and Swiss Family Robinson. Sometimes I let them watch animal planet or the Discovery channel. Educational stuff occasionally is okay but junk like SpongeBob wont happen on my watch. Anything violent is out as well.

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