What would happen with your children if you turned off the television for a day? How about a whole week? A whole month? A year or more?
Would there be temper tantrums and behavior that mimics withdrawal from an addictive substance? What would your children really be like with no television for an extended period?
In her book, "Growing Up on Television," author Kate Moody writes, "Each year children read less and less and watch television more and more. The typical child sits in front of the television about four hours a day — and for children in lower socioeconomic families the amount of time thus spent is even greater. In either case, the child spends more time with TV than he or she spends talking to parents, playing with peers, attending school, or reading books. TV time usurps family time, play time, and the reading time that could promote language development."
Pretty heavy stuff, wouldn’t you say?
And that doesn’t even touch the amount of violence depicted in prime time television shows, the increase in childhood obesity as a result of passive viewing, the fact that research indicates that TV consistently reinforces gender role and racial stereotypes, and the number of prescription drug, unhealthy food, toy and alcohol-related advertisements in commercials.
So as a parent, how can you break the television habit in your home and encourage more active habits and activities, such as reading, sports, board games, etc.?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Treat TV viewing as a privilege, not a right.
- Limit the amount of TV viewing and allow it only on weekends.
- Take all televisions out of bedrooms — including yours.
- Engage in family activities, such as board or card games, reading, sports or library activities.
- Set an example by limiting your own TV watching.
- Have a cupboard filled with healthy alternatives to TV — science projects, arts and crafts, scrap booking materials, cards and board games, age-appropriate books and magazines, building kits and models.
Expect a lot of whining and groaning when you first put your TV ban into effect. It’s not easy to break an addiction. But think of the effect that this will have on your child’s imagination, reading and writing ability and restful sleep, all of which are affected by chronic television viewing.
After all, it’s called the 'idiot box' for a reason!
Dr. Steven L. Levy is a chiropractor in Woodbury.