Do you sometimes wonder if your children are becoming TV addicts? Do they watch hours of TV, no matter what’s on? Are you worried that they are spending less time with friends or in physical activity? Many parents today are concerned about the amount of TV their child is watching. Should you be worried?
The short answer is yes, you are right to be worried. There can be a lot of valuable education and good entertainment on TV. However, excessive and uncontrolled TV viewing can be harmful, fostering passivity and physical inactivity in children. This can cause children to gain weight, reduce time spent on learning and social activities and exposes children to violence and other unhelpful viewing.
TV viewing is addictive and like any habit it can take time to break it. Your involvement is critical in helping your child. Sit down and have a chat with them and discuss your concerns. Make an agreement with them about the amount of TV they can watch in a day and which programmes they can watch, vary this at weekends. If you have more than one child perhaps consider drawing up a schedule so they each get to watch the programmes they like but have equal but limited access to the TV. This can also prevent a lot of arguments among siblings.
Don’t focus on “No TV”, help your child identify other activities they can do instead. Some ideas are sports, meeting friends, reading, etc. The key is help your child build new helpful habits and not to be simply dependent on TV.
If you want to be successful, you have to be prepared to model this good behaviour. Be prepared to turn off the TV during mealtimes inviting conversation instead. Also, get involved in healthy activities yourself with your child. You might arrange to go swimming together or play a game of tennis. Pick something healthy that your child likes to do and try to encourage this good habit by being there with them, using the time as an opportunity to connect with them.
You have to remember to be patient, it can take time to break a habit and to learn a new one. Encourage your child with any small positive steps they make, but also be prepared to enforce TV viewing rules (insisting your child keeps to the agreed times).
Dr John Sharry, Dpsych,Msc, MIACT