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CEE's Family Building Blocks
March/April 1998

"Turn Off That TV!"

We know that most children watch too much television. The average American youth spends 1,500 hours a year watching TV (compared to only 900 hours a year in school), and sees 20,000 TV commercials in a year. Even the little ones, under age five, average 27 to 28 hours of TV each week, when they should be crawling, running, throwing, drawing, and moving!

We also know that too much T.V. viewing can be detrimental, producing overstimulated, underactive children who fail to develop a contemplative mind, social skills and hobbies. In fact, the fast paced, high voltage entertainment has caused kids to become bored with school (their number one complaint). Media critic Michael Medved says television also erodes the ability to defer gratification, "the essence of maturity,"--a major cultural problem. There's the violence. Studies find Saturday morning children's program to be THE most violent segment on TV, with eight of the shows exhibiting "sinister combat violence" which goes way beyond the Bugs Bunny variety. The researchers write, "Remorse and restraint are seldom seen or even considered." Teachers surveyed say shows like "Power Rangers" do increase violent behavior in kids. Studies have concluded that religion is basically a "non-presence in prime time" and when it's mentioned, it's usually negative. Portrayal of clergy is often even sacrilegious. And family values are largely villified. Even 77% of children surveyed think there is too much premarital sex on TV, and 62% say it influences their peers to have early sexual relations. And two-thirds of youth think TV shows encourage disrespect of parents. Wow--even the kids notice how bad it is!

The bottom line, says Medved, is that "We need to an emphasis to reduce TV. The problem in America isn't...sleaze or violence..., but there's too much TV, period."

Strategies for Limited Viewing

Seventy-three percent of parents, according to one study, want to limit their
children's viewing. So why not just do it? Below are some ideas. It's scary at
first, but go ahead and take the plunge into real fun--you'll be glad you did!
Most experts recommend limiting TV viewing to one hour per day. This also
encourages better selectivity.

  • VCR's can be used to tape the programs desired, then fast-forward
    through commercials and trouble spots, giving parents content control.
  • Devise a list of fun TV alternatives for kids to do and tape it to
    the front of the TV. Require them to read it before turning on the set.
  • Try turning off the T.V. just for a week. You might not turn it back
    on, or if you do, your kids may watch less.

TV-Free Fun

  • Make an ant farm by putting a smaller glass jar or plastic container into a larger similar one. Fill crevice between with dirt from your yard and add ants for hours of fun!
  • Give your child an old map or atlas and a "navigation assignment." Have him mark out a route from a starting point to a destination.
  • Have a child pick an object in the room (i.e. cupboard) then pronounce it backward (drobpuk). The others try to figure out the object.
  • Let the kids play volleyball indoors --using a balloon as the ball. Tie a string between two chairs for a net.
  • Put bean bags on the kids' heads and then race/chase through an obstacle course without dropping it.


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