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Child Behavior: Too Much TV for your Child?

Apr 15, 2008
Television is a fact of life, and there are few families that don't have one, or that never watch one. Television can also be educational, informative, and uplifting. But, let's face it - the vast majority of what is shown on TV is pure drivel - it is far from uplifting or educational, and often portrays behavior that would be quite unacceptable in most social circles. Even worse, it often portrays that behavior as normal, or even desirable.

Furthermore, time in front of the TV is time NOT spent in physical activity, nor in conversation. In other words, watching television is a largely passive, solitary, activity that undermines healthy social behavior and promotes obesity and other "couch potato" disorders.

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. The problem with most adults and children is that they have got so addicted to television that in its absence they don't know what to do. Again, you will have to find alternate activities first for yourself, and then for your children. Think of things to do that are healthy and pro-social. The best ones would be to take up some sport like swimming, hockey, football, etc or revive your interest in hobbies such as dancing, painting, scrap-booking, collecting stamps and coins and so on. There is no dearth of what you can do but the bottom line is to do something, not just sit and watch others doing. Even if you feel like relaxing it is a good idea to pick up a good book to read. It will exercise your brain as it relaxes your body. How about listening to your favorite music?

Your local recreation center or the adult education center will have many programs and classes to offer at any time of the year. You can make a deal with your child that if he attends one of his favorite activities, you will offer some incentive.

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. You may even think of cutting down on your channel subscriptions. This way you will watch only what has been pre-booked. You save time on aimless channel surfing, and the family can jointly decide the programs that are actually worth watching.

5. You may want to 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. The best way to monitor your child's television watching is to watch together and then talk about what you viewed. Initiate discussion on the program or its values, its quality of acting and scripting. You can even discuss the commercials that will help your children to be less naive and gullible when it comes to advertising. Take practical examples and show them how some of the toys and foods don't live up to the hype when you actually go and buy them.

7. Don't turn off the television abruptly. Give sufficient warning, and try to time it with the end of the show.

8. If you can afford to cancel your expensive cable and satellite subscriptions, you will be able to use the extra money for other activities, and there will be less programs to watch. This will do a lot of good to you as a family. You will be able to go out together. You will enjoy a home-cooked pizza on a special family night instead of the usual couch potato routine.

As with all things, moderation is usually the key. Be selective. Find the good programs and watch them. The rest of the time, do something more active or more sociable. Within a month or two you will wonder how you (and your kids) ever found the time to watch so much of it.
About the Author
Behavior Problems can be solved! To find out how, visit Dr. Swanson's Behavior Problems website and check out his acclaimed manual, The GOOD CHILD Guide.
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