The Kaiser Family Foundation reports kids ages 8-18 watch more than seven hours of TV a day. This is well above the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation, which state kids older than two should watch only one to two hours of quality TV every day. The AAP recommendation helps ensure kids spend plenty of time developing physically, socially and intellectually, thereby reducing childhood obesity and limiting exposure to televised violence, racism and risky behavior. Here are five tips to reduce the amount of TV your kids watch:
No TV in Bedrooms
Remove the TV from their bedroom. All that access to TV could make their homework, sleep and social life suffer, and they’ll see shows that depict violence, sexual promiscuity and other risky and inappropriate behavior. Put the TV in a common area of your home where you can monitor the shows your child watches.
Watch as a Family
Nielsen studies reveal the average home includes three television sets, and that’s not taking into account second screens such as mobile devices and laptop computers that stream TV shows. It’s common for parents to watch adult shows, while kids hang out with cartoons. Watching TV together, though, gives you a chance to discuss what you see. You can talk to your kids about what the media portrays in commercials and change the channel when a risky scene starts.
Use Parental Controls
Every show receives a rating that ranges from Youth (Y) to Mature Audience (MA). These ratings tell viewers what age group the show is designed for, and you can find them in your newspaper, cable or satellite’s TV guide or on the screen as a show starts. New 13-inch and larger TVs must include a V-chip (as per the Federal Trade Commission), which is a parental control that gives you the ability to block certain ratings, specific shows or entire channels. Setting it is easy; check out instructions at GetDirectTV.org or follow the guidelines in your TV’s instruction manual.
Focus on the Shows They Can Watch
Being a parent is filled with saying “no” to stuff that’s harmful to your kids, including riding a bike without a helmet and eating sugar all day. TV shows such as “Jersey Shore” and “Family Guy” would also land on the harmful list, but don’t focus on the shows your kids can’t watch. Instead, preview the shows they want to watch, and make a list of shows that are OK. Everything else is off-limits, which eliminates confusion over what your kids can watch.
Make TV Time Intentional
Matthew Lapierre, communications studies assistant professor at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington, found a majority of families leave the TV on as background noise. If you do that, your kids may not be actively watching the set, but they are listening to adult content. Eliminate this harmful habit when you intentionally set designated TV viewing times. Gather your kids on Sunday, look over the TV guide and write a viewing schedule for the week. With this tip, your kids still get to see their favorite approved shows, and they also have time for school, friends, exercise and activities—because the TV isn’t on all the time.