#3 Turn off the Television
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF):
- two-thirds of infants and toddlers watch a screen an average of 2 hours a day
- kids under age 6 watch an average of 2 hours of screen media a day (primarily TV, videos, or DVDs)
- and, kids 8 to 18 years old spend nearly 4 hours a day in front of a TV screen AND almost 2 additional hours on the computer (outside of schoolwork) and playing video games.
In addition, in an article by Time-Scout Monitor, we learn that "television has become so entrenched in family life that it needs to be considered a socializing agent comparable to parents and educators. 98 percent of the 75 million households in the United States own a television set, and these sets are turned on an average of 7 hours a day."
(Source: Time-Scout Monitor is no longer published)
But there's so much good quality media out there," is what I often hear from friends.
And I agree.
But it's the one time where we're all together," is another response I get.
But regardless of the quality of programming, or how many of you are crammed onto the couch for family movie night...
...television is still primarily a passive activity.
One that fills the mind with good or bad, but doesn't involve many of the other senses except seeing and hearing.
Sure, you can watch a documentary on bird migration with your 6-year old, BUT you should also...
take her to the local nature center for programming (typically free!) on migrating birds...to the zoo and walk through the aviary with her...through the subdivision on a hunt for feathers...to the library for gorgeous, full-color photography of birds in flight (we love Usborne Publishers books, The Magic School Bus books, and Seymour Simon, just to name a few, for non-fiction literature)...or to your local art museum to study how birds in flight are portrayed in art.
There are just so many ways we can open up the world of knowledge to our children rather than just through television programming and we can do it all together.
Notice, I didn't start out this blog with suggesting you get rid of your television.
Here's my Personal Op on Television Viewing...
First, my husband loves to watch television. Specifically, reality shows on barbecuing, car restoration, and the United States of Bacon or How the States Got Their Shapes! :) I am not about to tell him, after working two jobs so that I can stay home, he can't watch television to unwind. That being said, we have recently developed a firm rule that the television stays off until after bedtime for the kids. Prime Time television is definitely not family-time television!
Second, going hard-core "anti-television" only seems to drive my kids further into a media frenzy! Kids today are tech-savvy. I'll never forget the time I imposed a loss of "television privilege" on my 8-year old, only to discover her watching Netflix on the computer. Her pat response, "you didn't say no computer...only that I couldn't watch TV." If you do remove television from your home, be sure to have something to replace it with...namely your attention.
Third, there truly is television programming with value available, BUT it is difficult to come by among the mud and the muck. And, as I discussed above, it is still a passive activity. That being said, there are some pretty spectacular space videos out there, and unless you've got the finances to send your son or daughter to NASA's Space Camp , videos might be the next greatest thing for your little astronaut! Still, I would encourage you to supplement their education of a particular subject with other non-media opportunities such as museums, art classes, nature centers, etc.
Fourth, there are some really cute and fun "non-educational" television programs available too. Our family loves all of the Charlie Brown holiday specials as well as Frosty the Snowman, The Grinch, etc. These are so few and far between that we really do enjoy "watching them as a family" where popcorn, jammies,and typically a roaring fire are involved!
And finally, sit down and actually watch your children's choice of television programming with your kids. I find my children to be thoughtful consumers of television viewing, but only after having spent several hours actively engaging my children in conversations while their programs were on. I did not multi-task...no iPad or book/magazine reading...no phone calls...while watching their choice of TV. Rather, I actually listened to the dialogue and studied the images on the screen and engaged my kids with questions like, "Wow, did that character actually say that?" "Would we ever make fun of someone because of their weight or call them names?" (And this is on Disney Channel folks! ) "Why do you think Mom doesn't think that's appropriate for our family? Why do you think it is okay to watch?" Etc., etc.
By setting limits and encouraging other activities throughout the day or after-school, we truly are showing our loved ones how much we love them! Advertisers and television producers do not love your children! They love your dollars and they love their ratings, but putting your children's best interests at heart is not their primary motivation.
Take a stand this February and pledge to yourself and your loved ones that you will make a conscious effort to be more present. You might be surprised at how calm and peaceful your home becomes when the background noise is turned off!