Child Behavior: Help! My Child Watches Too Much TV. 

Dr. Noel Swanson.

toomuchtv_pic1Television is a fact of life that cannot be wished away. These days, you cannot think of a home without a television, and it is rare to find families that don’t watch television. Television is no longer considered a means of entertainment only; indeed, it can be informative, educational and uplifting. Nevertheless, there is no denying the fact that most of what is shown on TV is pure nonsense, if not cheap and obscene. As parents, your concern about what your child watches is justified because most of the time it portrays behavior that is quite unacceptable in most social circles, and presents it as normal, or even desirable behavior.

Furthermore, time in front of the TV is time NOT spent in physical activity, nor in conversation. In other words, watching television is a largely passive, solitary, activity that undermines healthy social behavior and promotes obesity and other “couch potato” disorders.

That television influences behaviors is evident from the billions of dollars spent on advertisements. It is the sheer repetition of it that works on the minds of people and comes to surface at the time of making choices.

If parents could have their way, they would probably want to throw the TV out of the window, but that will not solve the problem. So, look at the problem in the face and do something to limit your child’s exposure to it to reasonable amounts. Here are some suggestions:

toomuchtv_pic21. The best place to start is from here and the best person to start with is you. Take a fresh look at how much time you are spending in front of the television screen. If you spend 4 hours a day watching soaps, you can’t blame your child for watching too much TV. As a parent, you are required to make some personal sacrifices only to set the right example for your children. Remember, children learn by examples not by sermons.

2. The problem with most adults and children is that they have got so addicted to television that in its absence they don’t know what to do. Again, you will have to find alternate activities first for yourself, and then for your children. Think of things to do that are healthy and pro-social. The best ones would be to take up some sport like swimming, hockey, football, etc., or revive your interest in hobbies such as dancing, painting, scrap-booking, collecting stamps and coins and so on. There is no dearth of what you can do but the bottom line is to do something, not just sit and watch others doing. Even if you feel like relaxing it is a good idea to pick up a good book to read. It will exercise your brain as it relaxes your body. How about listening to your favorite music?

Your local recreation center or the adult education center will have many programs and classes to offer at any time of the year. You can make a deal with your child that if he attends one of his favorite activities, you will offer some incentive.

toomuchtv_pic33. It helps to discuss the matter with the child and come to an agreement on rules of television watching, such as, no TV before school and during meals. You may even like to fix one day of the week as a regular TV-free day.

4. Another way is to opt for pre-schedule television, which allows you to watch only what has been pre-booked. This way you won’t spend time in channel surfing and the family can together decide what is worth watching.

5. You can draw up a chart to use television time as a reward for other activities, such as completing household chores, or getting homework done.

6. Watch television together – and then talk about what you viewed. You can discuss the program itself – its values, its quality of acting and scripting – or you can discuss the commercials. Doing the latter is a very valuable exercise as it helps children to be less naive and gullible when it comes to advertising. See if you, as a family, can figure out what strings the adverts are trying to pull to get you to want and buy their product. Do the toys and foods live up to the hype when you actually go and buy them?

toomuchtv_pic47. Remember to be reasonable and fair while turning off the television. Wait till the show is over and give some reasonable warning.

8. You can nip the evil in the bud, so to say, if you stop subscribing to the expensive cable and satellite channels. You can spend the extra money for other activities. This gives you quality time with the family and helps you bond better. A family outing or a home-cooked pizza turns out to be much more fun than watching others do similar things on the screen.

All said and done, beware of going to the other extreme. Don’t become overly critical of the television either. Remember, excess of everything is bad. Be selective. Find the good programs and watch them together. Engage in physical activities and be more sociable. Very soon you will wonder how you and your kids ever found the time to watch so much of television.

More information on ( children’s behavioral problems is available from Dr. Noel Swanson’s website, packed with tips and help on solving ( ) Child Behavior Problems.