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Tips for Parents:  Too Much Television | PDF

Is TV bad for kids?  Television has many benefits to offer, but when TV is watched too much, or without supervision, problems are likely to develop. 

Television presents complicated situations without offering explanations of the content.  When your children watch TV, they see adult scenarios that may be beyond their understanding.  They also see simplified versions of life that are unrealistic.  Worse, they may see points of view that do not reflect the values that you are trying to set for your family.  Left alone to interpret these images, your children may develop inappropriate views of life.

Many TV programs depend on danger and violence as the main themes of their stories.  Television plots often show innocent people under attack and forced to fight back.  Such programs create fear in children, making them believe that they are likely to be victims of harm and that violence is an affective way to solve problems. 

Television changes your child’s lifestyle, and not necessarily for the better.  In addition to psychological effects, television has very real lifestyle effects on your household.  Do family members eat dinner in front of the TV?  Fall asleep to TV programs?  Plan events according to the television schedule?  Tips for Parents on how to take back control of your house.

It is possible to cut down on the amount of time your family sits in front of the television set.  Here are some Tips for Parents:

Limit TV hours.  Tell your children how much television they are allowed to watch and stick to your limits.  Simply teaching your children to choose their programs will improve your household’s relationship with the TV set.

Don’t use television as a babysitter.  Leaving your child alone with the TV set invites the worse of the effects of television.  If you have to leave your children alone, make sure they have something to do besides watching TV.

Take the television out of the bedroom.  In too many households, children sit along in their rooms with the doors shut watching TV.  This isolates the child from family and adds many extra hours of television viewing to his or her life.

Spend time with your children on other activities.  Children need to play, and they deserve free time with their parents doing things outdoors or away from the house.  Use the time you now spend on television to do other things—walking, exercising, playing games, whatever your children enjoy.

Take control of the messages television sends to your family.

Work together with your children to choose good programs.  Review the television guides with your children and discuss the programs that will be watched during the week.  Teach your children how to be selective and to find good programming.

Talk back to your TV set.  If you see something that deserves a comment, positive or negative, don’t let the TV set have the last word.  Discuss your reactions with your children and let them know how you feel about what you’re seeing.  Your children will learn how you feel about important issues, and will realize they don’t have to take TV at face value.

Be smart about TV.  Let your children know laugh tracks are there to make them laugh, even if the action isn’t that funny.  Point out how music is used to make a show seem more suspenseful.  If you teach your children to be smart TV viewers, the negative effects of television will be much more limited.

Use the VCR/DVD/DVR/Tivo if you have one.  Over time, you can build an excellent video library from the selections in video stores, libraries and online.  Keeping high quality entertainment in your home guarantees that your children will always have worth-while programming to watch.

Try to get a handle on advertising.

Talk about the ads.  When commercials are on, don’t just let them run.  Talk to your children about the hidden assumptions behind the advertiser’s message and whether you agree or disagree with those assumptions.  You may want to discuss how the ads tie into the show you are watching and whether the show contains the same hidden assumptions.

Zap the ads.  Another benefit of a VCR/DVD/DVR/Tivo is that shows can be recorded and run at a later time.  This allows the viewer to fast-forward through commercials and limit the effects of advertising.  

For More Information:

Video: More Learning Means Less TV
IOX Assessment Associates
28170 Boberg Rd., Suite 1
Wilsonville, OR 97070-9205
(800) 330-3382

The Center for Media Litera

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