from "Selling Out America's Children"

by David Walsh, Ph.D.,
psychologist & author - Fairview Health System, Minneapolis, MN

Forbidding children to watch TV altogether is ill-advised, for three reasons: First, it's unrealistic. TV is too much a part of the fabric of our culture. Second, prohibiting the use of television merely increases its attraction as forbidden fruit. Third, banning television eliminates the legitimate and worthwhile benefits it can provide. There are some excellent shows on TV. Our goal should be to help our children learn how to use television appropriately. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Avoid using television as a babysitter. It might be convenient for busy parents, but it can often begin a pattern of indiscriminate viewing.
  2. Limit the use of TV. While some shows may not espouse harmful messages, children can still suffer from spending too many hours of TV watching.
  3. Watch TV together. This enables parents to be aware of the things their kids are experiencing and the messages they are seeing and hearing. It is oftentimes a discussion starter to talk about issues that otherwise are difficult to approach.
  4. Examine how you use television yourself. The example we set has a big influence on the viewing habits of our children.
  5. Establish some clear ground rules. Examples include no TV before school, during daytime hours, during meals or before homework is complete.
  6. Don't give the television the most prominent location in the house. People watch less TV if it's not the focal point of activity.
  7. Keep television sets out of kids' rooms. Putting them there encourages more viewing and diminishes a parent's ability to monitor its use.
  8. Make sure you know what a movie or video is about and what it's rated before you give permission to view it. This includes what is seen at friends' houses.
  9. Use the radio, records or tapes when the television is not on. Help kids explore other forms of media both for entertainment &endash; and for information. Read the newspaper, listen to public radio for a different slant on the news.
  10. Provide alternative activities that are enjoyable. Turning off the set is more effective when you plan some other fun activity with the entire family.


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