Take Control of TV (And Other Screen Time)

No Television

After a stressful day, kids and parents often look to the TV to help them relax and unwind. It's an easy way to beat boredom or get the kids to settle down. While we all enjoy watching TV sometimes, each day kids watch an average of 4 hours of television and then spend 2 additional hours using the computer or playing video games!

Why is this a problem? Sitting in front of a screen for hours on end leads to less physical activity, overeating, and a higher risk for becoming overweight. When we watch TV our bodies are still and we tend to snack more. While we watch we also see lots of advertising for high calorie, high sugar foods which have a big influence on kids. Spending time in front of the screen can also take away from time that could be spent reading or working on homework.

House Rules For TV

  • 2 hours/day or less* of total screen time-TV, non-school related computer, and video games.
  • No TV during homework.
  • No TV sets in any bedrooms.
  • Meal time = Family time. No eating while watching and no TV during meal times.
  • No surfing-watch favorite shows only.
  • Limit viewing to set days/times.

While taking control of your family's screen time may seem like an big task, it is one of the most valuable things you can do for your kids health now and as they grow into adulthood. Check out these suggested house rules that you can put in place to help everyone in your family reduce screen time!

Here are some tips to help you and your family work together to reduce screen time:

  • Be a good role model. Tell your children that sitting less and moving more is an important way to stay healthy. They will have more energy and more fun. Most importantly, try to cut down on your own TV viewing habits. Your kids will follow your lead!
  • Don't use TV as a reward or a punishment. This makes TV seem even more important to children!
  • Use technology. Screening devices can remove commercials and limit the time kids spend on the computer or watching TV. TiVo, TV Allowance, and parental controls in Windows Vista are all helpful tools.
  • Be an active watcher. Whenever you do spend time in front of the TV, try to do something active like yoga or lifting weights. Challenge your family to a push-ups, jumping jacks, or sit-ups competition during commercial breaks.

What can kids do instead of watching TV?

Provide your kids with alternatives to watching TV, such as playing outside, getting involved in a new hobby, or joining a sports team. Check into local sports and recreation programs that are offered after school and on weekends in your neighborhood. Some programs are free through schools or towns, and many offer scholarships. You may be surprised by the choices you find once you begin to look!

Here are some other ideas:

  • Get outside! Go for a bike ride or roller-skate around the neighborhood. Check out nearby public parks or gardens. Bring a kite with you or a basketball to shoot some hoops.
  • Take up a new hobby! Encourage your kids to learn to play a musical instrument, take dance or art classes at your local community center, try out for a part in the school play, or join a club!
  • In the summertime, check out the community pool in your area or find a miniature golf course (you can also make your own in your back or front yard!)
  • Volunteer together! Check with your community center or local soup kitchen and spend the day helping out and getting to know your community as a family.
  • Join the kids! Try out old-fashioned games like hopscotch, tag, jump rope, and hide-and-seek. Set up a scavenger hunt around the house or your neighborhood.
  • On rainy days, head to the library, a museum, or the zoo. These are often free and fun for the whole family! At home, work on an arts and crafts project like making bead necklaces or making your own play dough. Card and board games as well as reading together are also great ways to spend time indoors as a family.

Did you know?

American kids spend as much time watching TV as they spend in school or any activity besides sleep!

For more ideas of things to do instead of watching TV, check out "Do More, Watch Less" by the CA Department of Public Health: