Your Child and TV

By: Dr. Noel Swanson....

Most parents complain that their children watch too much television. In this age and time television is a fact of life. One doesn’t come across families that don't have one, or that never watch one. While there is nothing wrong with television per se one has to be selective when it comes to watching television and how much of it you can allow your children. Television is educational, informative, and uplifting. At the same time, a lot of what is shown on TV is nothing but drivel. It is nowhere near uplifting or educational, and shows certain behavior that is quite unacceptable and undesirable in most social circles. But, children are too small to discern the difference and make intelligent choices.

Another consequence of excessive TV viewing is that it consumes quality time that would otherwise be spent in physical activity or social interaction. Watching television makes lazy viewers of active doers. Instead of playing games in the playgrounds, children become passive spectators. It adversely affects healthy social behavior and turns active children into obese ‘couch potatoes’.

Television certainly influences behaviors. If it didn't, advertisers wouldn't spend so many billions of dollars on their tiny, 30-second slices of it.

If parents could have their way, they would probably want to throw the TV out of the window, but that will not solve the problem. So, look at the problem in the face and do something to limit your child's exposure to it to reasonable amounts. Here are some suggestions:

1. To begin with, you will need to cut down on your own TV watching. If you spend 4 hours a day watching soaps and other nonsense, you can’t expect your child to be selective and watch television in a limited time. Parents have to become good role models for their children. You can influence the impressionable minds of your children by setting good examples rather then by preaching to them.

2. Next, you will have to find alternatives for TV, both for yourself, and for your children. Think of healthy social activities that will improve your physical health and help you in social interactions. The best ones include taking up some sports or hobbies. Choose the sport you like and introduce your child to it. Or revive your interest in an old hobby. You may just want to relax reading a good novel, or even a comic while listening to your favorite music. But, initially you will have to put in extra effort to make it work.

You will find your local recreation center or adult education center very helpful in finding the right program or class for you. Don’t forget to offer some sort of incentive to allure your child towards an activity of his/her choice and be generous in praise. After all, you are taking them away from an addiction, and it is not easy.

3. Establish some baseline rules - eg. No TV before school, or after X pm, or during meals. Or maybe have a regular TV-free day: no TV on Tuesdays, for example.

4. Pre-schedule television - ie. People can only watch what has been pre-booked. This cuts out aimless channel surfing. Instead the family will have to look up the TV guide and find something that is actually worth watching.

5. Use television time as a reward for other activities, such as completing household chores, or getting homework done. You will need to draw up some sort of chart to keep track of all this!

6. Watch television together - and then talk about what you viewed. You can discuss the program itself - its values, its quality of acting and scripting - or you can discuss the commercials. Doing the latter is a very valuable exercise as it helps children to be less naive and gullible when it comes to advertising. See if you, as a family, can figure out what strings the adverts are trying to pull to get you to want and buy their product. Do the toys and foods live up to the hype when you actually go and buy them?

7. Remember to be reasonable and fair while turning off the television. Wait till the show is over and give some reasonable warning.

8. You can nip the evil in the bud, so to say, if you stop subscribing to the expensive cable and satellite channels. You can spend the extra money for other activities. This gives you quality time with the family and helps you bond better. A family outing or a home-cooked pizza turns out to be much more fun than watching others do similar things on the screen.

Also, remember not to overdo it. Be selective. Find the good programs and watch them. The rest of the time, do something more active or more sociable. Very soon you will wonder how you and your kids ever found the time to watch so much of it.

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Do your kids play you up? Then you should really take a look at Dr. Noel Swanson's free newsletter on children's behavior managementthat is packed with advice. More of his articles can be found here: free articles on parenting
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