We allow our 3-year-old daughter to watch a certain amount of TV, and she has a few favorite shows: Peppa Pig, Ben & Holly, etc.

We have a lot of satellite channels, so the TV is usually showing something she likes. We also have a few DVDs of her favorite shows.

The difference of course is that TV breaks up the programmes with introductions, trailers, and adverts, while the DVD shows programmes one after another (I call it "crack TV"!). Another consideration is that sometimes on TV she ends up watching a show that's new to her, and likes it, which never happens with a DVD.

For those reasons, I'm coming to the conclusion that TV is a better choice than DVDs. Hence my question - what are the relative merits?

4 Answers 4


Good observations. I see things in sort of the opposite way, so let's compare.

I feel that commercials are the evil twin of TV entertainment, especially when they're aimed at kids, especially when they appear between kids' shows. I don't want to indoctrinate consumerism into my kids' heads; there's plenty of opportunity elsewhere. That's one reason why I personally record almost anything I want to watch - because I can then skip the commercials.

You're right that TV provides a certain element of positive serendipity, and that's absolutely a plus. On the other hand, my 4yo prefers to watch the same episodes again and again, and you won't get that on TV. Another plus with DVD is that you can pause it at any moment, for any reason. In either case, my 4yo can't hold his attention on the screen for more than 30 minutes or so, and he can't really keep up if a new episode or show moves forward too fast. He's not a hardcore media consumer (yet ;) ).

See also these related questions that I found in the sidebar. They touch on what I mentioned above:

Disclaimer: I don't own an actual TV set -- we have a "media center" computer that records from TV and on which I also store a copy of all DVDs, so it's easy to click and pick whatever we want to watch, one show at a time.


This is of course very subjective, but one of the reasons I dislike TV is because of the advertisements. My kid starts asking for everything from snacks that she tries once and never touches again to expensive toys. I also think that finding new shows isn't necessarily an advantage, either. It starts out with just getting to watch one show a day, then she likes the look of the next show that she saw the trailer for, and before you know it, every show is a "favorite," and it's always "just one more!"

One thing that we do use a great deal in our house is our Netflix subscription. We do have the ability to find new shows based on what we have watched and liked, with no commercials.


Personally, my kids watch more DVDs than live TV. But they watch on-demand programming (via Netflix) way more than either of those options. So my take on the pros and cons:

Schedule: With live TV, you have to revolve your schedule around the show you want to watch. Dinosaur train comes on at 11:30? Ok, now you have to actually be home at 11:30 to see it. That could be a pro or con depending on your perspective. On the one hand, that can used to teach lessons about time-keeping and boundaries that are beyond their (and your) control. On the other hand, that also means your schedule has to revolve around the TV schedule if you want to see a certain show.

Commercials: That's a big con to live TV in most cases. All the ads for toys and food products and other things they're bound to want. DVD to a lesser degree has advertisements for other DVDs, but not other consumer products and sometimes you can skip them. On-demand programming often has fewer commercials or leaves them out entirely.

Discovery: Live TV makes it easy to discover new shows because they come on automatically after other shows end. Which is good if your child is not excited to try new shows otherwise, but bad if your kid is discovering shows that make you cringe because they are annoying or inappropriate in some way. On demand offers discovery options sometimes as well. Netflix suggests other shows you might like because you watched this or that.

Location: DVDs are more flexible about where they can be watched. You can take them in the car with a portable dvd player. You can take them to grandmas and play them on her tv. You can take them on an airplane where you don't even have wifi to play youtube, etc. In this regard DVDs are a win.

Length of play: while DVDs may have many episodes back to back, if you skip "auto play" mode and use the main menu to select an episode it will almost always play just one episode and then stop automatically. On TV, unless you have a fancy tv with a sleep timer, there's no automatically shut off after this episode option. If you need to play continuously without intervention, TV wins. If you want shorter playback, on demand or DVD wins.

  • On your last paragraph, it might be good to put Netflix alongside TV in that regard, since it autoplays the next episode and you can't turn that feature off. Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 22:39

Advertisements are made to purposefully manufacture a need, and it's usually a need based on a false reality: you will be happier/have more friends/feel more loved/whatever deep needs people have. What a sad thing it is to allow a child to feel like they are less fulfilled because of a consumer product. Marketing is the same towards adults, only the message is a bit more refined.

I didn't let my kids watch shows with advertisements until they were old enough to analyze the ads with me. And we did analyze all the ads. I taught them to look for what the ad was really saying, and was that true? Why would manufacturers want you to think that? Who is profiting from this advertisement? (In effect, cui bobo?) Not a bad habit to get into when viewing ads, I think.

Having said that, once they were old enough to view ads with a more discerning eye, they were old enough to crave new programs, so more TV shows creeped into their viewing. But for a long, long time, it was DVD's and public television (no ads then.)

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