|Television Diet Tips
It would be easy to write about how terrible television is. It's an easy target. But I struggle with this because I enjoy watching television, like most everyone else. My research on the subject as well as my experience of seeing TV's effect on students causes me to view television fairly negatively. Still, I have to admit I enjoy it. Television has forever changed how we receive information and how we entertain ourselves. The challenge is to handle it responsibly. Here are a few "dieting" tips for limiting television viewing in your home.
1. Determine a set time and duration for your child to do homework each day. If you simply say he can watch TV when his homework is done, he may rush through his work to get to the TV.
2. Once a week or every few days, go through the TV guide with your children and together select the programs they will watch. This avoids surfing through the channels in search of something to watch. Using the TV then becomes a deliberate rather than habitual act. If you are wondering how much television to allow each week, one elementary school principal suggested to me that he would like to see students watch no more than thirty minutes of television each night.
3. Record programs (with the TV turned off) and watch them after homework or other activities are completed. This will also allow you to space out the viewing time over the week when favorite programs appear on the same day.
4. Make a game of eliminating all TV viewing for one week. Challenge your children with a reward if they can discipline themselves not to watch any TV during that time. If you do this once a month, it is like adding 18 - 21 days to your year!
5. Turn the TV off during times of family interaction or when the children are playing. Don't use it as background noise.
6. Help your child learn to critically analyze the message of the commercial. (This will be more successful with older children.) Help him make a habit of questioning if the message is true; if the product will really give him the benefit it claims; and if he truly needs it. Help him discern if the advertiser is using the classic marketing technique of selling the sizzle or selling the steak.
7. Make a habit of turning off the TV as soon as the last scene of the TV show has faded to black. This will allow you and your child to reflect on the message of the program without the distraction of commercials. Interact for a minute or two with your child about the program's message. This can be something simple, such as comments or questions like: "That was really funny when ..." or, "I didn't like that one character who..." or, "What did you like most (or least)..."
Television can be a powerful force in shaping what your child thinks about and his habits of processing information. Unfortunately, the way television encourages your child to process information is the opposite of the habits he needs for the classroom. While television stresses emotion, immediacy, and entertainment, school work requires reason, reflection, and self-discipline.
It is imperative that you restrict and monitor what your child watches, or eliminate the television set altogether. When you limit viewing time, you are putting the TV in its right place — as a storyteller, not an extra family member.
© Eric Buehrer