Deciding how much and which television programs kids should watch is a tough job for any parent. But it can be done.
Responsible television viewing should begin when the kids are young. It's important that they realize from an early age that television viewing is a sometime thing and not part of the background.
The Down Side of Television
Educational and sociological experts as well as pediatricians agree that too much television is not good for kids. There's a lot of gratuitous violence and sex on TV -- not to mention commercials that bombard children with unnecessary messages.
While the jury is out on the overall effect of television violence, most experts and parents believe it encourages aggressive behavior in some children, and may make others feel frightened and vulnerable.
Television sex may be casual. Very often it is the subject of ribald humor. These may not be messages parents care to transmit to their growing children. Rarely are responsibility, commitment, and safety addressed.
Some estimates suggest that kids see more than 20,000 commercials every year. They have trouble separating the image from the product. Advertisers and marketers know this -- and in fact marketers find that kids influence family buying habits far more significantly than at any previous time.
Some Do's and Don'ts
Here are 10 tips for responsible and pleasurable TV viewing.
1. Discuss your attitude about television with your children, and keep the dialogue open as they grow up. Talk about violence and reinforce that the actors are not really hurt. Point out that commercials are designed for selling products. In time, your child will understand these concepts.
2. Don't be afraid to limit the time your kids can watch television. Some families turn the TV off during the week, others limit it to one or two hours a day. Choose a system that works for you.
3. Limit your own viewing. Set an example for your kids by only watching specific programs, rather than watching anything "that's on."
4. Watch your children's selected shows with them. Do this at least once to determine the level of violence and the attitudes of the main characters. Encourage programs that showcase caring, cooperative, and friendly relationships. Don't feel guilty about blocking some shows, or simply forbidding them.
5. Never make television viewing a reward or punishment. It's tempting to turn off the television for transgressions, but this glorifies television and confers too much importance on it. Find other punishments.
6. Provide other activities for your children. Make sure to keep basic art supplies, board games, books, puzzles, and music on hand. Video games have their own allure and along with television, these can be limited.
7. Provide plenty of opportunities for play and interaction with other people. Instead of watching television, kids can play with other children, even those of different ages, and also spend time with the adults in their lives.
8. Boredom is not a bad thing for kids. If your children complain now and then of being bored, don't suggest they "see what's on." Learning to entertain themselves is part of growing up.
9. Never allow the television become background noise. Turn it on for a specific program -- and then turn it off. You limit computer time; do the same with TV.
10. Make children's bedrooms television-free zones. Studies show that kids with TVs in their rooms do not do as well in school as those without them.