Many parents might consider TV time for children a waste of precious hours that could be spent reading, playing outside or doing anything else. And many even feel guilty when they allow their kids to indulge in a few shows.
While it can be a mindless time waster or even a bad influence, TV can be used to educate, inform, and even bring families together when approached thoughtfully.
In the early days of television, viewers gathered around one brown wooden set to watch a TV program together. Parents, kids, and neighbors enjoyed The Texaco Star Theater, The Howdy Doody Show, and The Jack Benny Program as a group, and they spoke about it afterwards. It was a shared experience.
It’s different now.
When I was growing up, television tended to temporarily divide our family rather than unite us. We had televisions in different rooms, which allowed the kids to watch Star Trek upstairs, while my parents watched something else downstairs. We even had a small portable television that we took turns watching in our individual rooms. Fortunately we did manage to find time for some happy family memories as well.
Today much of TV time has been replaced with social media, apps, and games, in addition to movies and television programs viewed on personal devices such as smart phones, tablets, and laptops. Media time has become more individualized than ever and, as a result, can cut into quality family time.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
The Journal of Adolescent Research recently studied 633 adolescents and their parents and concluded that families do see positive benefits when parents “monitor” or “co-view” programs with their children.
“Results revealed that positive media use was positively associated with general family functioning (for girls), parental involvement (for both boys and girls), and adolescent disclosure to parents (for boys).”
In other words, television and media can be used to bring families together for quality discussion.
According to a segment on CBS This Morning, most American families have three TVs and the average person watches about five hours of TV a day. Why not try to make the most of this time for a little family bonding?
Read on for some tips on how to turn your family’s TV time into quality family time:
Choose a Time for Family TV Time
Maybe it’s every Sunday night after a family dinner, or perhaps you all take a mid-week family break on Wednesday night to gather for a favorite program. Once you put the time on the family calendar, everyone will know to schedule around family TV time. And with the convenience of DVRs, Apple TV and other resources, you won’t be stuck watching poor-quality programming just because of the night and time you choose to watch.
Choose a Program
With the vast variety of programs available on network and cable television, parents must be discerning when choosing a program to watch together as a family. Look for shows that have an educational element and that will generate discussion. But even light entertainment that sparks laughter and enjoyment can make for quality family time. Problems and burdens can seem lighter when families take some time to laugh. Parents Television Council offers a helpful “family guide to prime time television” online.
Involve the Kids
To get the kids on board with a Family TV Night, it will help to get their input on the featured programs. Find out which TV shows your kids are particularly interested in and if possible, begin watching one or more with them as a family. Doing this will bring you into their world and you’ll be able to communicate about the shows together. Many ongoing series include cliff hangers and over-the-top characters that people enjoy talking about, so watching these shows with your kids will give you something to discuss together.
Make Some Family Traditions
Television can fit into holiday traditions and make for warm memories in the future. Many families watch a favorite seasonal movie every year as a way to get into the spirit of the holiday. Watching a classic movie such as It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story can make for a fun, familiar family activity. Or turn TV watching into a special activity by popping popcorn and lowering the lights, or maybe have a TV movie night outside.
Find a Springboard
Don’t make the mistake of ending the family time when the show is over. Make time after the program for discussion and ask your kids questions that will generate healthy conversations. How did they feel about the plot? The characters? Would they have acted differently in a similar situation? Or pause during the show or at commercials to ask questions about a character’s action and motivation. Many television shows can provide learning opportunities for real life experiences. Watching programs that feature character development is an opportune time to discuss and emphasize good role models for your kids.
Pre-Approve Questionable Shows
Just because a program has been approved with a TV rating for your child’s age doesn’t mean you will think it’s appropriate for him or her. When you’re not sure, record it, watch it first and then watch with your child (if you can’t record a program using a DVR, try downloading it via on-demand or online). You can also find resources online for help in restricting inappropriate programming in your home.
Make it a Learning Opportunity
Some shows have very involved plots that are difficult to follow. Such programs can be used to challenge your children to pay attention and remember plot details and story arcs. And programs that are educational can provide an easy way for kids to learn concepts and facts in a variety of subjects. Try to supplement what your kids are learning in school with complementary television programs or movies.
Expand Children’s Horizons
Most children have not been able to travel far from their home environments and so may not be exposed to different cultures and types of people. Such isolation can lead to a narrow-minded perspective. Television can be a great way to introduce children to people who are different from them in a way that allows them to sympathize and understand others better.
Television can only be helpful to kids if used in moderation, so parents must be wise about scheduling TV time for their kids. Too much TV time can lead to sleep problems and over-eating according to WebMD.com, so be vigilant about the danger signs of excessive television. KidsHealth.org offers ways to keep television to a minimum in your house so your kids enjoy the benefits without the adverse side effects.
Do you think television can be a positive force for the family or are you on the anti-TV side? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.