Television and Children
Television is a major source of influence in our children’s lives. In the United States, children watch an average of 4 hours of television each day. The ripple effect of this is enormous. Children who watch too much TV are more likely to become overweight. Many programs offer a steady diet of violence, sex and drug/alcohol use, not to mention racial/gender and other stereotypes. The average child will be exposed to 8,000 murders on TV by the time he/she finishes grade school! Research has shown a very strong connection between violent/aggressive behaviors in children and teenagers and exposure to violent TV. These same facts apply to DVDs, video and computer games - it all adds up to “screen time”.
Fortunately, television and other screen use are completely under our control. We are not forced or required to watch TV. Under some circumstances it can be an educational as well as enjoyable resource. Here are some suggestions for controlling the influence of television and other screens in your household:
1. Avoid the TV habit. Help your children find other activities such as reading, playing, or just spending time together as a family. With school back in session, the time available for family members to be together may already be in short supply. Make the most of it!
2. Limit your child’s use of all screen time to 1 - 2 hours per day. This includes TV, movies, and video/computer games. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against any television viewing by children under 3 years old.
3. Do not allow television viewing while doing homework.
4. Do not put a television in your child’s bedroom.
5. Plan your television time by having your child select a program and turn the television off when it is finished instead of “channel surfing”.
6. Watch TV with your child so you know what they are being exposed to and can discuss the content with them. If you are not available at the time their favorite program is on, consider recording it so you can still watch it together.
7. Express your opinion about what your child watches. A poor program can become a learning experience if you discuss your objections to the content with your child.
8. Commercials, commercials, commercials. Explain that their sole purpose is to encourage people to buy things. Public television stations have fewer commercials than other stations. Commercials can also be avoided by watching DVDs/videos or by recording television shows and skipping the commercials when viewing.
9. Check the reviews and ratings of DVDs/movies before buying or renting.
10. BE AN EXAMPLE. There is no greater influence in your child’s life than YOU. Being thoughtful and careful about the amount and content of your own “screen time” will help your child do the same.
You can get more information about television viewing by children from the American Academy of Pediatrics and aap.org