What can we do in our own families to decrease the amount of television they watch? We have developed some simple solutions to this complicated problem.
#1 Get the TV out of the bedroom
1/3 of 2-7 year olds and 2/3 of 8-18 year olds have a TV in their bedroom. Allowing a child to have a TV in their bedroom makes it very easy for them to watch too much TV as well as watch unsupervised.
Rideout, VJ, Vandewater, EA, Wartella, EA. Zero-six – electronic media in the lives of infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Fall 2003. A Kaiser Family Foundation Report. Available at http://www.kff.org
#2 Plan how much TV you and your family are going to watch
How much TV, video watching, video games and computer use for fun is allowed? Let children have some input into the decision. Post your planned schedule on the refrigerator.
#3 Set clear limits and be a good TV role model
For example, no TV on school nights, no TV after 7pm, etc. Keep the limits – don’t waiver. Be a good media role model and set limits for the adults in the house as well.
There is a custom in Germany that the family have one hour of quiet time per night with no TV, radios, etc. children can read, do art projects or the family can talk. This may be a custom that your family would like to adopt.
#4 Make lists of activities you want to do instead of watching TV
Involve the children – come up with things you can do in different seasons or some things that could become a family ritual such as walking after dinner twice a week.
You may suggest families use the Activities to Remember handout if available.
#5 Don’t keep the TV on all the time – tune into specific shows
Turn the TV on only when there is a specific show you are going to watch. Often we watch out of habit and flip around the channels never really watching a show.
Select the show(s) you want to watch, turn the TV on when it is time for the show and turn it off when it is over. Don’t allow the children to "channel surf" instead help them select specific shows that interest them.
#6 Eat together as a family without the TV
Some families now buy TVs or TV furniture before they buy a dining room table – many families don’t even have a dining room table. No Need – they just eat in front of the TV.
40% of American families always or often eat dinner while watching TV. Meals should be a time for family interaction, not silence while you watch a show.
National Institute on Media and the Family. (1999).
#7 Watch with the children
When the children do watch television – watch with them. Talk with them about the characters they see on TV as well as the advertising they see on TV.