Television can be one of the worst influences on your child. But that doesn't mean that it has to be! By following these tips you can help your child get the benefits of television without becoming a dazed little "couch potato."
1. Establish limits on how much TV your children watch. You should do this at a very young age but even if your child is older and has already got used to watching too much TV it is not too late to start putting limits on TV watching time. It is recommended that children under age 18 months do not watch television at all. While this may be difficult for you if you are a couch potato yourself, you may find that cutting back on TV is good for you as well. For children between the age of 18 months and three years of age, I recommend no more than 1/2 hour of TV per day. And for that 1/2 hour you should choose something such as Sesame Street. For children between the ages of 3 years and 6 years old, I recommend setting the limit at 1 hour of television per day. After age 6 you can set the limit at 2 hours. That should be good limit for your child throughout their developmental period. Once they get to their teen years you may want to become more lenient as teens may rebel against too much control.
2. Watch TV with your child instead of just leaving them to watch it by themselves. When you watch the TV with your child, they are less likely to go into a harmful "TV trance." It's good for you and your child to discuss what is on the screen. This will make the experience more thought provoking.
3. Never offer TV as a reward. You shouldn't associate television as something that "good children" get to watch. You should also not use taking away TV as a punishment. When you use TV as a punishment or as a reward it places too much importance on TV in the first place.
4. Set a positive example. If you watch a lot of TV then obviously it will be much harder to convince your children not to do the same. Cutting back on TV is not only a great thing for kids, it's a great thing for adults as well. When you are more plugged into life and less plugged into mindless television then you will be a better parent and a better person all around.
5. Select non commercial programming for your children to watch. The most harmful part of TV for kids isn't the shows themselves, it's the commercials which teach them to desire junk (both junk food and junk toys.) Either have your children watch PBS shows only or have them watch videos that are free of commercials! Commercials truly rot the brains of children. Make sure your children are as free of advertising as possible. The negative impact of commercials is hard to calculate. I think it's possible that a large portion of today's child obesity problems stem from commercials which make children desire junk food.
Obviously making sure your children eat healthy is another topic but I do think that by making sure your kids don't watch a lot of television commercials you will be able to lower their desire for bad food which will make it that much easier to get them eating the right foods.