Television can be entertaining and educational, and can open up new worlds for kids, giving them a chance to travel the globe, learn about different cultures, and gain access to ideas they may never encounter in their own community. However, the reverse can also be true: Kids can learn things from TV that parents don’t want them to learn. TV can affect kids’ health, behavior and family life in a negative way.
TV viewing among kids is at an eight-year high. On average children ages 2-5 spend 32 hours a week in front of a TV-watching television, DVD’s, DVR and videos and using a game console. Kids aged 6-11 spend about 28 hours a week in front of the TV. 71% of 8-18 year olds have a TV in their bedroom. Media technology now offers more ways to access TV content, such as the internet, cell phones and iPods. This has led to an increase in time spent viewing.
If your child is typical, TV is playing a very big role in his/her life. Following are some research findings to keep in mind as you decide what kind of role you want TV to play in your family:
• It is probably replacing activities in your child’s life that you would rather have them do-things like playing with friends, being physically active, getting fresh air, reading, playing imaginatively, doing homework and doing chores.
• Kids who spend more time watching TV spend less time interacting with family members.
• Excessive TV viewing can contribute to poor grades, sleep problems, behavior problems, and obesity.
• Advertisers target kids, and on average, children see tens of thousands of TV commericals per year. This includes ads for unhealthy snacks and drinks.
• Kids see favorite characters smoking, drinking, and involved in sexual situations in the shows and movies they watch on TV.
How can we limit the amount of time spent watching TV?
• Make very specific rules about when children can and cannot watch television. For example, do not allow TV during meals, homework or when parents are not around.
• American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommend that parents limit their children’s viewing to one to two hours per day at most.
• An alternative is to limit TV to one hour on school nights and two to three hours a day on weekends.
• You may want to allow a little extra viewing time for special educational programs as a family.
• If your child is doing poorly in school limit TV time to half an hour each day, or entirely eliminate TV, except for limited time on the weekends.
• Make it a rule that children must finish homework and chores before watching television. If your child’s favorite show is on before the work can be done, then record the show to watch later.
• The best rule is no TV during the week, and limited weekend TV. This ensures that kids are not rushing to finish their homework so they can watch a favorite show. It also frees up more time for family interaction during the busy weekdays. For example, instead of parking the kids in front of the TV while you fix dinner have them help you get ready for dinner. Even young children can set the table or get ingredients out.
How can we keep it from dominating our family life?
• Keep the TV off during family mealtimes.
• Make conversation a priority in your home.
• Read to your children.
• Don’t use TV as a reward or punishment.
• Encourage active recreation.
• Don’t use the TV as a distraction or baby-sitter for preschool children.
• Get the TV sets out of your children’s bedrooms.
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