According to a recent Nielsen survey (November 2009), the average American kid ages 6-11 is spending more than 30 hours a week in front of the tube.
Younger kids spend even more time than that!
Parents watch what foods their kids eat. They monitor the toys they buy for their kids. They make sure their kids get a good night’s sleep. But do they supervise TV viewing with that same kind of care?
BUILDING A BALANCED TV DIET
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that establishing healthy TV habits is one of the most important things a parent can do. As a principal, you can help parents do their job by raising awareness and providing them with helpful advice. In your next school-to-home newsletter, you might plan to share these tips from AAP for “Building a Balanced TV Diet.”
Watch what kids eat and watch what they watch.
How much your kids eat has a big impact on their health; so does how much TV they watch.
● Chart your family's current TV intake; list all TV shows watched in a week.
● Discuss how much time your family spends with TV, which programs are worthwhile, and which can be dropped in favor of other activities.
● Then limit your child's TV viewing to one to two hours of quality programming a day. Take advantage of high-quality programs offered on DVD or from other sources.
Know what's inside the box.
You carefully read the labels on the foods your children eat. Do the same with TV. Lots of sugary sweets are not good for kids. Neither are programs with violence, lewd language, and sexual overtones.
● Read the TV listings and reviews.
● Preview programs before your kids see them. Talk to teachers and pediatricians to learn what they recommend.
● Select TV programs that build interest in other activities, such as reading, hobbies, or the outdoors.
Add plenty of nutritious content.
Look for TV “main dishes” with educational content and positive characters and values.
Sit down with a good "TV meal" -- don't just snack away.
Don't let your children just “watch TV.” The next time your children ask, “Can I watch TV?” ask them what specific program they want to watch. Help your children get in the habit of watching one TV program, then turning the TV off and doing something else. Involve your children in setting TV rules.
● Don't let your children watch TV until after their homework or chores are done.
● Make that extra effort to watch some shows together. By watching together, you're telling your children you care. “Co-viewing” can lead to lasting educational benefits.
● Tape quality shows and view them at a later time.
Put down the clicker and get some family exercise.
TV should not replace active play. Your TV diet will be most successful when it includes lots of “family exercises,” such as family discussions and activities. TV programs should be springboards that spur curiosity, discussion, and learning.
TV TURNOFF WEEK
Another thing you can do is to initiate a TV Turnoff Week in your school. TV Turnoff Week can help to raise awareness about TV viewing as it helps parents and kids take control of the electronic media in their lives instead of letting it control them. Or perhaps your school’s PTO leadership will see the value in this idea and spearhead a school-wide effort -- and maybe even a school-wide Game Night event -- during one of 2010's TV Turnoff Weeks, April 19-25 and September 19-25.
It's not too early to join thousands of other schools and community organizations that are organizing special events to get out this very important message. Start planning now with TV Turnoff’s Six Steps to a Great Turnoff.
Note: The "TV Turnoff Week" Web site is not very active these days. It will not be updated for the Turnoff Weeks in 2010. The links on the site for ordering an Organizer’s Kit are not working at this time. But don’t let that deter you. And be sure to check with the folks at your local Barnes&Noble store. Many stores are planning special events during this year's TV Turnoff Weeks.
The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work for Your Kids
You might even use this book as a “parent book club” selection. Use this discussion guide to guide a group discussion.
The Smart Parent’s Guide to Kids’ TV
This book provides practical techniques and strategies to assist parents in dealing with television in the lives of their children. The book is out of print, but many new and used copies are available at the link above.