Teaching Your Child Good TV Habits
April 23, 2004
KidsHealth.org

The average American child watches 3 to 5 hours of television every day. By high school graduation, most children have spent more time in front of the TV than in the classroom. In fact, television viewing accounts for more of a child's time than any other activity except sleeping!
Excessive television watching encourages a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating behaviors that can lead to obesity in children. To help you teach your children good television viewing habits, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has developed the following guidelines:

Set limits.
Know how much TV your child watches, and don't hesitate to reduce this time. Many children won't easily give up TV watching, but the AAP recommends that parents limit their children's viewing to 1 or 2 hours a day at the most.

Minimize the influence of TV in your home.
Make it a practice to keep the TV off during family mealtimes. Also, make conversation a priority in your home; don't center the furniture in your family/recreation room around the TV. Avoid having television sets in individual bedrooms since this tends to physically isolate family members and minimize family interaction.

Complement TV with other technologies.
Use a video recorder to tape programs or show rented movies. Check your local bookstore or library for guidebooks to children's movies and videos. Many local libraries and video stores carry educational material. If you don't want your child watching certain cable channels, ask your cable operator about special devices to lock them out.

Plan viewing in advance.
Approach TV as you would a movie. Use a TV guide or newspaper to decide which shows to watch. Furthermore, use a TV rating system to determine shows appropriate for family viewing. Turn the set on for these programs only, and turn the set off and discuss programs when they're over. Use the VCR to tape shows of special importance and to eliminate commercials.

Don't use TV to reward or punish your child.
Practices like this make TV seem even more important to children.

Watch with your child.
Help children interpret what they see on TV by watching along with them. Use TV to express your feelings about difficult topics (sex, love, work, behavior, family life) and to explain confusing situations. Teach your children to question and learn from what they view.

Provide alternatives.
Parents are responsible for how much television their children watch. Encourage both indoor and outdoor activities for your child: field trips, games, sports, hobbies, reading, and chores. Exercise is extremely important for children. Designate certain evenings for special family activities.

Resist advertising pressure.
Don't expect your child to ignore commercials for snack foods, candy, and toys. Help your children develop healthy eating habits and become smart consumers by teaching them to recognize a sales pitch.

Practice what you preach.
Don't expect your child to have self-discipline when it comes to television viewing if you don't. Set a good example for your child by spending your free time reading, exercising, talking, cooking, or in other endeavors instead of watching TV.

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