How Can I Help My Family Use TV and Movies Safely?
Set time limits.
It is easy to watch TV for hours at a time. If you think there are other ways your children could better spend their time, give them a screen time "allowance" – it will lead them to make thoughtful choices about what they want to watch during their available time. Alternately, allow them to watch their favorite programs, but not to aimlessly channel-surf.
Do your homework.
Remember, the content of what your kids watch is just as important as the amount of time they spend watching. Learn more about the story, actions, and characters in a show before you allow your children to watch it.
Do not allow televisions in your children’s rooms.
Having a television in a child's bedroom has been linked to overweight, poorer academic test scores, and sleep problems. By keeping the television in a family area, you can see how, and how often, it is being used. You can also more easily keep track of time limits. Remember that it is much easier to never put a television in your child’s room than it is to remove one that’s already there.
Watch TV and movies with your children.
Watching TV with your children offers a chance to share ideas and talk with them about content. You can learn more about why they like a certain show, and you can talk to them about whether you think something you just saw could really happen.
Educational television may be beneficial. There are many TV shows and DVDs that claim to help children learn, but most of these programs have not been researched to verify these claims.
If your children watch educational television, be sure the programs are appropriate for their age and skill level and that they do not involve violence. Watch the show with your children to see how much they are learning. Don’t forget that face-to-face interaction and reading to your children are always the best ways for kids to learn.
Use media ratings to help make decisions.
Movies and television shows are rated according to age and often have descriptions of content as well. Use the rating systems as a guide when you make decisions about what your children are allowed to watch.
Be a media role model.
Use the kinds and amounts of media you’d want your children to use and they will follow your example.
Encourage social and extracurricular activities.
The amount of time that children use media is often determined by the amount of down time that they have at their home. If you think your child is spending too much time watching TV, find other fun activities for them to do.
© 2004-2008 Center on Media and Child Health, Children's Hospital Boston.
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