Dealing with a TV-Obsessed Child
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
Excessive television-watching is a concern of many parents. Statistics bear out that kids spend countless hours in front of the TV. American children watch an average of three to four hours a day of television. They spend more time watching television each week than any activity other than sleeping. And consider this: by the time a child graduates from high school, he will most likely have watched about 15,000 hours of television compared with 13,000 hours spent in school.
The picture that emerges from these studies is sharp and clear: television has a powerful impact on children. Using vivid images, it can command their attention in a way few teachers can. Unfortunately, television’s “curriculum” is not always beneficial for children and sometimes can even be harmful. It can shape children’s thoughts and mold their values — often in ways that run counter to those of their parents. In addition, children who watch violence on TV may view aggression as an acceptable way of solving problems and may be more aggressive in dealing with others.
You are unlikely to be able to ban TV from your child’s life — nor should you. Television is an integral part of our culture and it can even be a force for good. Your job is to harness the good that television has to offer while minimizing its negative effects. The following tips may help you do this:
- Set television viewing guidelines. You may want to designate certain times of the day when the television is turned off, for example, during meals, homework and family quiet time. And if you are serious about limiting your child’s TV watching, keep a TV out of his bedroom.
- Teach your child to be a wise viewer. Help your child become selective in what he watches by having him go through the television listings to choose shows he wants to watch and which fit within your time restrictions.
- Set a good example. Teach your child to be a discriminating viewer by being discriminating yourself.
- Suggest alternative activities. It is often easier for children to turn on the TV than to figure out what else to do. Help your child out by offering some attractive alternatives.
- Talk with your child about the shows he sees. In this way you can help inoculate your child against the values put forth on TV that run counter to yours.