Where is the monster? Did you guess that it was right in front of your eyes? It’s your television or tablet! Spending time watching television or on a tablet means your child may not be engaged in creative or learning activities, like reading, playing or just being a kid.
Many households have one or more TVs or tablets and a child’s free time may center around what’s playing on television or games on the tablet. Watching to much or inappropriate television or games can lead to violent and aggressive behavior, obesity, poor body concept and self-image, and later, substance abuse and early sexual activity.
These tips can help families tame the monster in your home and take control of their household’s TV and tablet habits.
- Know what your child is watching. TV shows,videos and games contain a rating system which indicates the targeted age for a child. However, each child is different. You should decide if a show, video or game is appropriate for your child. Sit with your child while watching a show or video or playing a game and watch how your child reacts. Does your child become fearful or overly excitable while watching? This may be a sign that this is not a good match for your child. Talk with your child about what you both saw in the show, video or game. Your child’s perception of what occurred may be very different from your own perception.
- Place clear limits on TV viewing and game playing. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of two not be allowed to watch TV. They also suggest limiting the time older children spend watching. Try to be positive in your messaging. Instead of saying “You can’t watch TV”, say, “Let’s turn off the TV so we can……”.
- Be aware of commercials. Be alert to commercials or ads that are not appropriate for young children. Children may think they need to have many products that are advertised. The younger children learn the concept of needs versus wants, the better for themselves and your family.
- Keep the TV off and tablets away from the table during meals. Mealtime is a great opportunity for family conversation. Everyone can talk about their day, or each day, a family member can select a topic for dinner. Involve children in household activities and meal preparation. Even toddlers can help to set the table!
- Designate certain days of the week as “TV/Tablet Free Days”. Replace the time your family spends watching TV or playing on the tablet with activities that involve the entire family, like playing a game, reading a favorite book, learning a new hobby, or creating a new craft. Look for free or low-cost family activities within your community, such at your local library or community center. For those times at home, put on some music and dance!
- Don’t worry if your children complain they are bored. Boredom often leads to creativity and physically active play. When children have opportunities to find something to do on their own, they will be learning problem solving, and will develop habits for a lifetime.
- Be a positive role model by being physically active and cutting down on TV /tablet time. Show your child how you like to spend your free time through reading, doing a hobby or creating a craft item.
Sharing time with your child, doing activities to engage both the mind and the body, will help build a child who has the skills to learn and grow.