Children who watch too much television have disrupted sleep patterns, do less well in school, and have an increased risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
If you’re worried about how much telly your family is watching, this article should help you to take control over your kids’ viewing habits.
1. Get the TV out of the Bedroom!
Having a TV in the bedroom may keep your kids quiet, but you lose control over what and how much they watch. A recent study found that children who had a TV in their bedroom watched more TV and performed worse in school tests.
If your child already has a TV in their bedroom, you may have a job on your hands to get it out. We recommend that you just remove the TV and explain your reasons to your child. Be prepared for protests, but remember that you are acting in the best interests of your child, and that you are the boss!
2. Don’t have the TV on in the Background
If no-one’s watching it, turn the telly off! TV has an amazing effect on us. We instinctively pay attention to moving images, so when a television is on it is difficult to concentrate on other things. Remember, the “off” button is there for a reason.
3. Don’t Allow Unsupervised Access
Do you really know what the kids are watching? Many studies have shown that children can be exposed to violent and sexual imagery that is inappropriate for their age. Keep track of what your kids are watching, and avoid having loads of TV sets around the house.
4. Agree Programmes
Buy a TV guide, and agree in advance which programmes your children will watch. This won’t take long, and will save your children from hours of zombie-like channel surfing. Most Sunday newspapers have a weekly TV guide included. Set rules for acceptable programmes together, and develop a list of programmes to be watched.
5. Agree TV Time
Agree with your children how much time the family will spend watching TV during the week. Remember to be firm during the negotiations. Your kids need to know that you are the boss – much easier with younger children.
If your children are massive telly addicts, you will need to reduce their screen time gradually. The most important thing for telly addicts is to replace TV time with something else, so you might need to think about active hobbies for your kids.
6. Assess the Situation
Keep a TV log for a week, and work out how much time you and your children spend in front of the box. Just write down the number of hours of TV you’ve watched – you may find this surprising.
7. Record Programmes
Record movies and programmes that you like, and watch them at convenient times. This can help to minimise the effect that TV has on your family’s sleeping and eating patterns.
8. Discuss the Plan
Explain to your children the reason why too much TV is a bad idea, and get their opinions. This is crucial, since you want your children to develop good TV habits that they will take with them into adulthood. Don’t be too dictatorial, and explain your actions. Your children will get into the habit of being discerning viewers.
You’re the boss, and you need to take a lead, but you have to bring your children with you. If your children are very young, this will not be a problem – they will just accept your rules as being normal.
9. Encourage Rebellion!
Your kids are going to rebel against something so why not make this rebellion a positive process? Point out to your child or young adult that the TV keeps them passive and under control. Your children probably won’t like the idea of being passive zombies controlled by others.
10. Cut the Cable…
…or get rid of the dish. Why not get rid of your satellite TV and with the money you save, rent the odd movie that you’re really keen on? You’ll be able to watch your movie at a more convenient time, you won’t be bombarded with adverts, and you will probably save money.
Don’t eat in front of the telly! When you are looking at the box, you find it harder to keep track of how full you are. For this reason people tend to overeat when they are watching television.
When children routinely eat meals in front of the TV they are more likely to become overweight. The odd bit of popcorn during a movie is OK, but in general don’t let your family eat meals in front of the TV.
12. Keep Perspective
You don’t have to ditch the TV completely, although believe it or not some people take this option and live perfectly normal lives. TV isn’t all bad…you can see great movies, there are fantastic educational documentaries, and there are great comedy and entertainment shows. Just make sure that you control the TV, and the TV doesn’t control you!
Are YOU A Telly Addict?
If we parents watch too much TV, our children will too. Some scientists think that you can become literally addicted to TV. If you find yourself doing any of the following, maybe it’s time to cut back on your own TV habit:
- You cut short social events to go home and watch TV
- You watch television out of habit, not interest
- You turn the TV on in the morning, and leave it on all day
- You channel-surf
- You cut short intimate time with your partner to watch a TV show
You are the most important role model to your children – so maybe you should cut down on your own TV habit! Find out more about the health effects of TV.
Do your kids watch too much TV? Why not let us know – make a comment below!