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Back Helping Your Child Succeed Develop a TV viewing policy for your children

Develop a TV viewing policy for your children

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MANY recent studies have indicated that excessive television viewing is linked to poor academic performance.

Research also shows that American children spend an average of three to five hours a day watching television. If your child is not performing academically as well as he could, television watching can be contributing to the problem. You can, however, help your child avoid television's negative influences by developing and implementing a television viewing policy in your home. Try these suggestions to get you started:

  • Be a good role model

Before implementing a television policy for your child, examine your own TV viewing habits. If your own habits are less than ideal, then set a good example by making some changes. Follow the television rules you established for your child.

  • Set the stage

Take note of how many hours a day your children spend watching television. Decide what changes you are going to make to their routine and how you are going to carry them out. Then call a family meeting and explain your plans to your children.

  • Limit viewing time

The ideal limit for TV viewing is no more than one and a half hours per day. However, do not go from feast to famine in one fell swoop. Reduce the amount of time your child spends in front of the TV gradually. Going slowing will ease the transition and ensure success. In addition, the time is needed for the family to adjust to the new routine. Start reducing the number of hours your children watch television by setting a few basic rules, such as no television during meals, or before household tasks or homework are completed. Then gradually work your way down. For most children, watching television is a habit, so do not be surprised if your child resists the change or experiences withdrawal. In the end, establishing good habits for your child is worth the effort.

  • Have alternative activities prepared

Your child will need your help to break the television habit. Have alternative activities planned for him before you make any changes. As you reduce TV viewing time, incorporate those activities into that time frame. In the beginning, have your child play outside, read, go for a walk, or have a talk. As more television time is eliminated, you can start incorporating activities such as having your child join a sports team, participate in a community service program, or help prepare the family's evening meal.

  • Plan TV viewing

Approach television programs as you would a movie. Teach your child how to develop a TV viewing schedule by showing him how to use a TV Guide or newspaper listing to decide which shows to watch. The television set should only be turned on for those specific programs, and it should be turned off when they are over. Take this time to eliminate TV programs you find objectionable from your child's schedule. Explain to your child why he is not allowed to watch them. Hint: Lock-out devices will ensure that certain channels cannot be seen.

  • Participate

Make some TV time a family experience. Afterward, talk about the programs you've seen. Ask your child questions. Explain any confusing situations. If you see behavior to which you object in the TV program, say so to your child and explain your objection. Discuss the difference between fantasy and reality. Follow up interesting programs with a trip to the library or a bookstore.

Breaking your child's TV habit is not going to happen overnight. It may take weeks, even months to achieve. In the beginning, expect strong resistance. There will be arguments and tears. Do not give in! Be patient, and stick to your plan.

Elizabeth Hamilton, M.Ed., MA, is a teacher with 24 years of professional experience. You can write to her at successfullearner[at]

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