What can you do to decrease the hours that your family spends glued to the screen? Here are some simple solutions to get you started.
Get the TV out of the bedroom
One-third of 2- to 7-year-olds and two-thirds of 8- to 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.
Plan how much TV 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.
Set clear limits, be a role model
For example, no TV on school nights, no TV after 7 p.m., 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.
List alternate activities
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.
Tune in to 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.
Eat together without 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 — they just eat in front of the TV.
Forty percent 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.
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.
Adapted from: eXtension, an educational partnership of 74 universities in the United States.
Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Her Family Ties column appears in Sunday Life on the first Sunday of each month. Contact: 770-535-8290.