NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Taming the TV Tube

Taming the TV Tube

            Quick Question –What activity is second only to sleeping for occupying time in a child’s day?   School? – No.   Time with family?    No.   Running, biking, walking, anything physical that uses their incredible amount of energy – No, not that either.   The answer is watching TV/playing video games/ sitting in front of a computer screen.  Children spend more time sitting in front of electronic screens (screen time) than in any other activity besides sleeping.

            The average time spent with various media (television, computer, video games) is more than five hours per day. Even the very youngest children, preschoolers ages 6 and younger, spend as much time with screen media (TVs, video games, and computers) as they do playing outside. That means several hours of inactivity and, in the case of television viewing, hours of exposure to advertising for high-fat, high-calorie foods. Many of these ads are aimed directly at children.

            Children who spend a great deal of time in front of a screen have less time for playing and talking with other children and adults. Language skills are best developed through reading and conversation. Excessive screen time can interfere with growth in this area. Children who watch less television do better in school and perform better on standardized tests.

            Perhaps most alarming is the effect of too much screen time on children’s bodies. Most children do not get the recommended amount of physical activity each day, and one reason for this is the number of hours spent inactive in front of a screen. There is a link between overweight in children and television viewing. Children who watch more TV tend to be heavier than children who watch less TV. Children who live in families in which television viewing is a normal part of the meal routine eat fewer fruits and vegetables and more pizzas, snack foods, and sodas.

Ways to Limit Screen Time

1.      Plan how much TV you and your family are going to watch. Limit screen time to one to two hours a day. Planning the amount of television you watch and selecting certain shows helps you to get the best out of what television has to offer.


2.      Set clear limits and be a good TV role model. Setting limits for the whole family is important. Children need to be taught how to have a good media diet.


3. Choose not to keep the TV on all the time, and instead tune into specific shows. With cable channels numbering well into the hundreds, you could surf for hours and never watch a show. If the TV is on, this is likely to happen. However, if you have a TV plan and you know what shows you are going to watch, the set goes on when that show is on and off when it is over.


4. Get the TV out of the bedroom. Having a television in the bedroom allows children to watch more television unsupervised. The same goes for video games and computers; put these in a common area of the home.


5. Eat together as a family without the TV. Have media-free meals as a family. Turn off the TV, cell phone, pager,  and MP3 player, and talk about your day. 


6. Make a list of activities you want to do instead of watching TV. Get help from the children to create fun activities to do instead of sitting in front of the television, computer, or video games.


7. Watch with your children. Discuss the shows and the advertising. Help your children learn about the tactics advertisers use to sell unhealthy foods


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