Television has become another member of your family and mine; we eat meals near it, learn from it, and spend more time with it than with any single individual. Unfortunately, television is central in our children's lives as tutor, baby-sitter, teacher, entertainer, and salesperson all rolled into one.
Has television grown so powerful we can no longer control it? No. But it very well might unless we act not to harness its influence and channel its awesome power. Television, like a potent drug, can either enhance or cripple a person's life. What can a parent do? Follow these guidelines they will make a difference!
WHAT CAN YOU DO AT HOME?
Start now. Many children are already habitual TV viewers by the age of 2. Harmful viewing habits can be changed only by substituting new habits. Do a little at a time some each day.
Put the TV in a little-used room. With the TV in an area away from the living room and other places where heavy family activity occurs, children will watch less and plan more what they watch.
Plan to have one night a week with the TV off. Meet as a family and pick a no-TV night. Decide whether you want to do things together or have time alone.
Avoid using the TV as a baby-sitter. You would not leave your child alone in the care of a stranger. A television cannot respond to a cry for help, nor can it tell when a child is frightened.
Plan ahead what to watch. With a TV viewing guide, decide what you and your kids will watch each night. Don't just turn on the set to see what's on.
Seek out programs made for kids. Help your children plan to watch programs designed for their ages, interests, and maturity.
Watch TV with your children. View their programs with them and help them evaluate what they're watching in light of your family's values and traditions.
Help kids distinguish between make-believe and real life on TV. Explain that terror and violence on TV shows is only acting and is not like real life violence.
Discuss TV commercials selling junk food. Help young children see that ads are trying to persuade them to spend money by developing buying habits which could be unhealthy. Let your children help select nutritious family foods and snacks.
Use TV to start family activities. Make a list of TV-advertised products and see how many you have in the house. Watch different news programs the same night and see if all use the same lead stories. Play along with your favorite game show as a family or play your own version with the TV set off. Do a TV-commercial product test and compare your results with theirs.
Find leisure activities besides TV. Watching TV is relaxing, but so is a good crossword puzzle or game of cards. If you break the TV habit, your child will have a better chance of avoiding an addiction. Buy a puzzle book to work on together or a model rocket to build together.
Read to your child. Start at an early age to help your child discover the magic in reading. Children of all ages enjoy being read to by their parents.
No need to try all these ideas at once. Start small by picking one you want to try and doing it. Post this list on your refrigerator and choose as a group one idea to try each week.
WHAT YOU AND SCHOOL CAN DO
Work with teacher and principal. Support use of quality educational television programs in school.
Acknowledge that appropriate TV viewing is a skill that can be learned. Bring in speakers from the PTA and local TV stations.
Let your feelings be known. Write newspapers, TV stations, networks, the FCC, and advertisers; tell them what you like and don't like.