The latest Nielsen figures indicate that children are watching more television than ever - those aged 2 to 5 are watching more than 32 hours a week while for those 6 to 11, it drops slightly, probably due to school hours, to more than 28 hours a week. That's still, on the average, more than 4 hours a day. These numbers include VCR and game console usage but not time on the computer or playing hand-held video games.
Are you concerned about these numbers? Children's healthcare advocates certainly are. They have warned that this increased television watching may be linked to two childhood issues: obesity and delayed language skills.
For the past decade, parents had thought that Baby Einstein videos would help their infants develop language skills but actually studies have found that infants who watch these kind of videos actually learn fewer vocabulary words than those who don't. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only an hour or two of TV for children older than 2 years, none for those below that age.
What can you do, as a parent, to wean your children from excess hours spent on television, videos and video games? It's not a simple process, but you can start by talking with your kids about why you believe it is important to reduce their electronic screen time. Help them see that it is not a punishment, but rather an important part of their growth. Here are some suggestions to get you started as you craft a plan that works for your family.
If you are a Sandwiched Boomer, single parent, or working mother, you are likely already stressed by your responsibilities and tempted to use television as a baby sitter. Instead, encourage your children to help you while you are doing things around the house - bring them into the kitchen to help make dinner, let them fold their own laundry, make it a game to see who can straighten up faster. Talk with your kids while you are getting your own chores done and make them a part of the process.
Set aside time for them to play outside with their friends. Learn more about after school activities in which your kids can participate - at school, in your local community center, at the park.
Encourage your children to read instead of watching television. Think about how you can make reading more interactive and interesting for them. Have a good book of your own handy so that you can sit down with them and read together.
Be a good role model. Don't leave the TV on as a background. Watch only the shows you specifically choose.
Include your children in planning which shows they will watch and when. Remind them that they need to limit their screen time to only what they have chosen. Set the amount of time they can play video games, hand-held or on the TV. You may decide on specific days or times for this activity. Make up a chart so they can plan for the week and let them fill in the times they have watched.
Set family rules about what is and is not acceptable in terms of TV and video games usage. Let your kids know that you are consistent in enforcing them. You can even purchase and use a TV/video game time management tool. These allow you to implement the time limits you have set with your children.
You may find that, as in any dramatic change, it takes many baby steps to alter your kids' television viewing habits. When you feel overwhelmed at the thought of prying your children's eyes off the TV, you can find some tips to get started at our website, www.HerMentorCenter.com. Click on the post title above to read an article giving you some suggestions about how to begin: Sandwiched Boomers: 7 Tips on Fighting Inertia.