Does Your Family Have Healthy TV Habits?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  40 comments   :  17,962 Views

We all want our families to be healthy. Teaching about eating right and being active are important ways to accomplish this goal. Other habits are also worth evaluating including the television habits of your family. Focusing on TV habits each April by turning off the television for one week as part of a nationwide campaign is one step forward. While this is a great practice, healthy television habits in the home the remainder of the year are also important.

There were basic television viewing rules in my home while growing up in the 1970's. Before cable television or satellite dishes, we were limited to only a few channels and an antenna that dictated which of those channels would come in and when. Exercise was part of television viewing as well since there were no remote controls and many times the children were the ones to run and turn the dial when it was time to change the channel.

Back then, there were commercials that made you hungry, caused you to ask your parents for a new toy, or embarrassed you because you were watching with your dad or your brothers just like today. In the Greater Dayton Ohio area, many children enjoyed special programming weekday afternoons on Clubhouse 22. The program host and characters like Duffy the Dog, Stan the Man and Dr. Creep kept things interesting between exciting shows such as The Brady Bunch, Speed Racer, Gilligan's Island, and Lost in Space. Evening viewing was limited by our parents but our family enjoyed watching situation comedies like Happy Days or M*A*S*H* as well as family focused series like my favorites Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons. Sunday evenings were my favorite television viewing time of the week because my mother would spread out newspaper on the floor in the family room and we would all enjoy a picnic style dinner while watching The Wonderful World of Disney.

I have been just as particular with my own children's television habits as well. When they were little we did not subscribe to cable television so we did not have to deal with so many competing options. PBS and their commercial free children's programming was our friend when it came to enjoying some educational television time. We followed many of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) television recommendations, limited viewing time and encouraged smart selections. Our children have also loved our "movie" nights when we eat dinner around the coffee table and enjoy a movie together and even as teen-agers, it is something our family does regularly.

Television can have a positive place in your home. Here are some guidelines to help you put it in its proper place for your health-focused family.

Devise a family television viewing plan - Just as eating and activity have to be planned if they are going to move your family toward health, so does television viewing. The AAP recommendations suggest limiting viewing to one to two hours of quality programming per day. Planning helps decrease the use of television to fight boredom and ensures that what is watched is of value for the time invested. Limiting family television time can also reduce the incidence of mindless eating in front of the television and can increase family conversation time and quality.

Establish television rules for your home - Many homes have rules for eating such as doing it only at the table or not eating in your bedroom. What types of house rules do you have related to television? Are your children required to ask before turning on the television? Do they have to complete chores or homework before enjoying a favorite program? Do adults commit to having work, family and home responsibilities completed before their favorite show comes on? Can the television be on while other things are going on in the home such as meals or homework? Setting home television rules and family expectations can help increase everyone's ability to relax and enjoy favorite programs while also meeting other family goals and responsibilities more efficiently as well.

Understand the benefits as well as the risks - Extreme views related to television cause some people to refer to it as the "idiot box" and say it isn't necessary while others use it constantly as back ground noise or an excuse for not having time to accomplish other things. Television can provide benefits to the family when evaluated and used in a healthy way. In addition to providing family entertainment, television and other media can allow people to explore places they might not be able to visit, learn about things they have not yet experienced and enhance understanding regarding topics of interest. Selecting television for these types of benefits can help reduce the risks. Not all television viewing is harmful or a waste of time. When used in the right way, TV viewing activities can build families, enhance critical thinking, and provide additional educational opportunities.

Watch programs as a family - Watching a television program with your children can provide a variety of benefits. Interactive programs allow you and your child to participate together. Even if a program is not designed to be interactive, parents can ask open-ended questions (what do you think is going to happen, why do you think that happened, what color is that truck) that turn them into wonderful learning opportunities. Watching with children also provides a chance not only to sit and cuddle with your child but also to talk about ideas and concepts that may not be familiar to them. For instance discussing the differences between make believe and reality when things on TV are unrealistic. Explaining that something viewed would not happen in real life helps children learn about real and make believe. When viewing with older children, talking about words, behavior or content that you feel are inappropriate provides an opening to reinforce your family values. Talking about the plot, characters and main idea of a program helps children learn to summarize and explain a story. When watching with pre-teens and teens, encourage them to ask about words or ideas that are not familiar to them. Pay attention to the comments they make and the shows they are drawn toward and then use those as a springboard for additional learning and an indication of possible career interests. Follow up with a trip to the library or an internet search to clarify ideas, events in history or interests to extend the viewing into a deeper learning opportunity.

Use modern technology to your advantage - Today we are not limited to a handful of channels. Instead, there is an overload of opportunity and a variety of ways to view media in addition to the family room television. While all these options can provide excess, they can also help you make the most of your media viewing experience. A VCR or DVR can reduce the need for annoying and sometimes embarrassing commercials by allowing you to start viewing a program later and zipping right through them. DVD, video and the internet provide wonderful opportunity to watch what you want, when and where you want to watch when chosen wisely. If you will not be home with older children, pre-teens, and teens and you are not sure they will make wise choices, use parental controls to block programs you do not feel are appropriate.

Know what your children are watching - Sometimes parents are in the dark when it comes to knowing what their children are watching. This is especially true when you are the parents of teens but also when you are the parent or grandparent of very young child. One of the biggest mistakes parents and grandparents make is assuming very young children are not watching or listening to a television program or movie while playing in the room. Assumptions are made that because the child isn't sitting and staring at the screen, they must not be watching or listing. This is not a safe assumption. Since young children are like little sponges, many times very young children are learning by listening as well as catching glimpses of images as they glance and play. It is important to know the TV parental guidelines for the programs your pre-teens and teens are watching. The rating system provides quick basic guideline information regarding content and age-appropriateness and allows you to establish viewing expectations for your teens for those times when you will not be viewing with them.

Healthy eating guidelines encourage portion control and nutrient rich foods. When it comes to healthy television and media viewing guidelines, portion control and educationally rich programs fill the same bill.

Do you have television viewing guidelines and expectations in your home? Is television enhancing your family time or limiting the goals you or your family are reaching.

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  • 40
    I think if you have video or dvd or a computer, no tv is needed.
    My library offers a GREAT selection of movies and documentarys ( a lot about animals and foreign counties as well as dance movies) and has itīs own selection for kids with fairy tales, animated movies and other adequate entertainment.
    Watching a movie together is so much more special, than just watching the TV programm... - 4/14/2010   4:22:36 AM
  • 39
    Great blog- we honestly don't watch that much television in our home. I turn the morning news on to see local happenings and get the weather forecast to make sure everyone will be dressed appropriate for the day and to see when will be the best time for me to get some outside exercise in. My son is allowed to watch 1/2 hour in the morning while getting ready for school. Then the tv is off for the rest of the day until my husband gets home, I just don't turn it on. My son knows he has to get the majority of his homework done before he is allowed to watch some evening tv and it is usually with me or my husband. For special treats we do family movie nights where we all sit in the family room eating our meal and enjoying the show. I have made sure that my son is watching good choices and he will opt for Animal Planet, The Discovery Channel, and the Travel Channel over Cartoon Network, Disney, or Nickeloden. I always try and interact with him and what he is viewing and introducing conversations to insure he understands and is learning from what he is viewing. Another great thing is we've made turning the big screen television a bit of an obstacle course in knowing what remote controllers to use which limits his viewing especially when friends are over and I hear "we're bored", I use what my parents used to say growing up- "go find something to do outside and use your imagination". If the weather is bad, then I will allow them to play Wii since it gets them up and moving compared to being on the computer or just watching endless television shows and commericals.
    Actually my favorite line is: "If you are bored try doing some pushups or crunches, or lets play a board game." When the response is negative to these, I tell everyone to go pick up a book and get lost in an adventure written on pages. I am an avid reader and with the nicer weather, have chosen to go outside to do some reading. We also limit how many televisions are in our home. We have the big screen in the family room and a smaller older tv in my sitting room. There are no televisions allowed in bedrooms!
    I will admit when it comes to folding clothes or doing the dreaded ironing I do turn on the television but try and find something interesting to watch. No soaps for me. - 4/8/2010   9:16:04 AM
  • 38
    Great blog. It is so important to supervise and limit what your kids are exposed to on the TV. Mindless watching for hours at a time can be as harmful to the brain as mindless eating can be to the body. Sadly, there are too few really good shows that are worth giving up an hour or two of your time ( time we can never get back). It also saddens me to see how TV along with the computer and cell phone have encouraged our society to become better at relating to inanimate objects rather than real people.
    I support turning it off for a week, or even a month and interact with the people around you, it's called relationship. - 4/7/2010   8:51:14 PM
  • 37
    My children are young adults now and I have no grandchildren yet. But we have always used free tv, just the attenna on the roof. (We are lucky to live where we do and can get so many channels that are clear as a bell). My children were only allowed to watch 1 hr of tv in the morning, all PBS shows, sometimes it was "Reading Rainbow" or "Thomas the Tank Engine". I was a stay at home Mom until they were 6 & 7 yrs old and baby sat a friends daughter. I would take my kids hiking, biking or just walking around the neighborhood. They helped me bake cookies and I let them chaulk up my driveway with pretty pictures. They had bedtimes until they were in 6th grade of 9pm except Sunday nights, then it was 10pm. I read to them everynight until they could read for themselves and they were allowed to do that for 30 mins after bed time. I noticed the few times that I have had to shop after 9pm at night that so many young kids that are out with parents when they should be at home getting ready for bed or already in bed.
    Many parents just let their children watch whatever they want and use the boob tube as a baby sitter which is really sad. - 4/6/2010   9:01:20 PM
  • BSWEET101
    We limit viewing time on weekdays, and I try to encourage the children to spend more time outside on weekends. We also watch shows together as a family (Waltons on DVD, "Who Do You Think You Are" on TiVo). - 4/6/2010   1:57:14 PM
    I don't watch TV as much now since I have the internet. I did watch Who wants to be a Millionaire a while ago (I do!) - 4/6/2010   1:16:32 PM
  • 34
    We LOVE our DVR. That way we always have a selection of appropriate (parent approved) shows the kids can watch. We never have the problem of looking for something to watch. And while it may drive adults crazy, it is good for children to re-watch shows and reinforce what they are learning. I also like that when the DVR'd show is done, it stops. It is a clear indication that the show is over and it is time to turn off the tv. Plus, we also limit their watching time to 30-60 minutes a day. - 4/6/2010   12:37:31 PM
    I don't have kids, but I was one once, to my dismay. I HATED television. It was like a punishment. Or it meant it was too rainy to play outside. Bored me to tears! - 4/6/2010   11:17:54 AM
  • 32
    Not too bad, maybe a little too much violence. - 4/6/2010   10:33:46 AM
    We have one TV in our house for a family of five with kids ranging from ages 18 to 12. Programming is monitored by ratings and anything rated above PG requires a password that only my husband and I can enter. We halt our service from June through September - we turn it back on for football season, as we are avid football fans. Our kids are not permitted to watch TV unless all homework and chores are completed. My husband has power of the remote after dinner and what is on TV, when it is on, is usually educational or travel related. - 4/6/2010   10:09:05 AM
  • 30
    With working full-time and a 2-hour round trip communte, it's really difficult to plan activities for our children to be active in the late afternoons and early evenings. We have made a new "goal" starting next week. I am working out with a personal trainer we have at work for 45 minutes Monday thru Thursday evenings. From there, I will go home and my daughter and I will walk our two dogs for at least a half hour every week day, and twice for the same time on the weekends. This will benefit both my daughter and I, as well as our dogs. - 4/6/2010   9:56:43 AM
  • 29
    we don't watch much television and we just have two dogs and 1 cat
    so they are not interested in any T.V. - 4/6/2010   9:38:41 AM
  • 28
    not too bad. - 4/6/2010   7:47:23 AM
  • 27
    Our healthy TV habit is watching the Dr. Oz Show daily. I'm considering starting a team for fans of the Dr. Oz show. Anyone interested? Spark mail me and let me know. - 4/6/2010   7:46:54 AM
  • 26
    My grandkids watch toooooo much TV, and I express my opinions on death ears.
    I think kids should spend some time being creative. When my boys were young, I rarely EVER let them watch TV. My husband is a TV watcher, so they didn't have much of a choice when he had them.
    If you have cable, there's a lot of learning programs. Other than that, there's nothing for kids to watch on TV. - 4/6/2010   7:37:15 AM
  • 25
    Not owning a TV and having an Internet connection too slow to stream many videos significantly reduces TV temptation and, for me, its time-wasting potential. - 4/6/2010   6:02:30 AM
  • 24
    With a granddaughter coming over on many afternoons, to watch or not to watch TV is again a consideration. The technology of the DVR is excellent for managing what she watches: forward through manipulating commercials, and her favorite shows available whenever she is here (yeah SpongeBob!).

    The key, however, in my opinion, is to watch TV (and movies, DVDs, etc) WITH your children and grandchildren. There are so many unexpected opportunities to role model and "teach" values, prompt discussions, and share stories, memories and experiences. TV time is also Cuddle Time for us!

    We may or may not remember the content of what we watch as time goes by, but sharing belly laughs, poignant moments, and singing along to music is a memory we'll share forever!

    P.S. Whenever she says "TV off now" - and she says it a LOT - OFF it goes, without question!

    - 4/6/2010   3:29:26 AM
    My kids are all grown up and having kids of their own. But, I really don't think that there is much for kids to be watching now a days. I am lucky to watch 2 hours in a week. - 4/5/2010   7:55:01 PM
  • 22
    I try to limit the amount of tv my son watches, but during the year it isn't that big of a deal because by the time I get off work and he gets home and eats, he only has a couple hours of tv time anyway. In the Summer he goes to camp with me where I work with the kids and that way he isn't at someone's house watching more tv and playing video games. My son basically doesn't want to watch tv but he likes watching wrestling dvd's. Somehow one of his friends got him into that, but I have put my foot down. While his other friends are going to the civic center and watching the wrestling entertainment in person, I won't allow that. I tell him it's not good to watch that stuff all the time anyway. He thinks one day he is going to be a professional wrestler. I don't want to break his dreams, but I do tell him he needs to be realistic. - 4/5/2010   5:37:40 PM
    turned off the TV before Christmas and have not turned it on since. Only watched a couple of DVD's. Don't watch TV any more and I do not miss it. - 4/5/2010   4:39:31 PM
  • 20
    I think we have a healthy balance in our house. We definitely have rules:

    No eating in front of TV (except movie night popcorn)
    No TV on during meals or homework
    No TV until other chores, school work are done

    Most weeknights the kids don't have time for TV; but we usually have a movie night on Fri. I enjoy that time together and that is the only time I watch all week. I think by not watching any TV myself it sets a good example for the kids that there are other things to do in your "free time", you read a book. - 4/5/2010   4:33:45 PM
  • 19
    we have a tv set,but not tv service...we use it for video games and movies only. Now that the weather is breaking the boys are outside more, and both are involved in taekwondo 3 times a week, so they stay active - 4/5/2010   4:02:14 PM
  • 18
    I don't have a TV, and didn't have one growing up. I will watch a DVD or two on the weekend, but during the week I don't have time after working 10 hour days, getting home and fixing dinner and going over homework with my daughter. I will watch an episode or a DVD of no more than 60 minutes while I am doing my treadmill (still usually on the weekend.) My DD will watch a DVD after she finishes her homework during the week, unless it is nice outside, then she might watch some after she gets in. My husband is another story. He's retired so he's constantly on the internet or watching a DVD. I am unable to get him motivated so he's really become a couch potato. I know that if we did have TV it would be on constantly when he is home (I've found that out first hand if we go somewhere where there is a TV.) - 4/5/2010   3:17:23 PM
    When the television is on, I am on my water rower. One hour TV = One hour exercise. Works for me! - 4/5/2010   2:41:56 PM
  • 16
    Since last JUNE when the TV switched over, I haven't watched any since I didn't buy a converter. I use the INTERNET and watch what I want, and get news when I want which is SO much better. - 4/5/2010   1:31:30 PM
  • RONIE11
    I have had a a T.V for most of my life. We were out in the boonies for several years and we watched videos my brother sent us because he couldn't understand a life with out a T.V. That being said none of us are big watchers. Our family grew up in the late 60's and early 70's when T.V. was something we did after dinner only. We did have an old t.v in our bedroom for saturday morning cartoons but it went off and we went out side after a very short time of it. I also put that into practice when I was raising my children. My daughter could care less for the t.v and my son would rather be outside than stuck in the house so its not much of an issue with us. My grandson comes to visit and you would think I was punishing him when I say NO to the t.v.
    The house where I work ( I'm a caregiver) has a t.v. in every room. The little boy has one on the dinning room table set up right in front of him so he can watch while eating his meals or doing homework. I have a very hard time with this.. my client would rather soil himself as long as he got his set turned on so he can watch it while he sits on the pot!!! Needless to say this drives me crazy. But to each his own I guess. - 4/5/2010   1:21:09 PM
  • 14
    When the boys were small and had a babysitter that restricted the TV as we had discussed, however when there father came home, he did not like any restrictions, and today my ex regrets always contradicting me on the rules. As they got older and new that what ever I said was meaningless, and to make matters worse his mother bought them each a TV for their bedroom after I said that no. What I have learned is that without support and a united front with the parents and grandparents who do not think you are smart enough or believe they know best and do not care about your beliefs and structured rules, you are fitting a losing battle. Today they watch TV less, and the real battle is on the computer and the games, which I opposed also, and every time took a game away, he bought another one to replace the game. Then when they went to his house for weekend or evening, there was no rules, and coming home it was a battle. - 4/5/2010   1:01:59 PM
  • 13
    Don't have kids at home anymore but frankly I'm appalled by most of what is on. A lot of it isn't fit for human consumption! - 4/5/2010   12:33:35 PM
  • 12
    My daughter doesn't watch a lot of TV...she spends a lot of her time watching videos on her computer. Fortunately, she is in judo, which gets her moving! - 4/5/2010   11:48:50 AM
  • 11
    We don't watch TV. My husband and I did not have one when we married and have a busy life. I don't know what I would want to replace with TV time. Our adult children have grown up with this and all of them now watch some- mostly programs they love on DVD. We do watch DVD's at times. Family movie nights are a fun tradition at our house.
    TV is a tool to be used and controlled. It can be a help or a hindrance! - 4/5/2010   11:43:01 AM
  • 10
    We don't have TV and I don't feel we are missing anything. On Friday nights we all sit down to popcorn and a wholesome movie and it is a great bonding time and seen as a treat. My kids are very creative and innocent as a result. There is so much crap on TV that we have felt good about how our family does it. - 4/5/2010   11:38:59 AM
  • 9
    Television enhances my goals. I watch things that teach me and things that are guilty pleasures that give me the benefits of laughter and fun. And I can't just sit and watch TV, I find that incredibly boring. So I'm usually also doing a crossword and getting the brain benefits from that, or relaxing back with some sewing which lets me unwind and destress. - 4/5/2010   11:23:02 AM
  • 8
    I'll be the first to admit that I am guilty of too much tv and computer/internet. I'm working on filling my time with other activities-- my roommate and I have an agreement to go do something active if we are watching too much television. The problem comes when I go home. My dad is constantly watching movies (granted that's his job/hobby doing films) and my mom as well. I don't think my sister ever goes outside for walks or to play in the snow or to make snow forts or explore-- all things I did when I was her age. Half of the problem is their fault but half of it is cable tv, something we didn't have until about a year before I left home. This summer I'm definitely going to make an effort to get them to do more with me. Great article. - 4/5/2010   10:45:19 AM
  • 7
    When my children were young, we used to have a week once a year of no TV! It was hard in the first few days but after that we played board games, they stayed outside longer. It was great. By the time TV was allowed again they were more particular about what they watched. It was turned off when no one was watching it! - 4/5/2010   10:33:16 AM
  • 6
    My parents and sister watch so much TV, it must always be on if they are home. They'll watch whatever is on TV, especially on the weekends. And if they are not watching TV they are on the computer, it's really sad. I wish they would go outside a little more often, or simply listen to music while at home. - 4/5/2010   10:21:54 AM
  • 5
    Watch science and nature shows with your kids. they don't usually do it by themselves. (Yes, some do.) But others need you to do it with them. So much to learn. - 4/5/2010   9:20:28 AM
  • SUNSET09
    My grandson comes home from school, we talk about his day at school, what he learned and he does his homework; then heads outside before it gets too late and/or dark. He then comes in and watches T.V. with his mom and brother until bedtime. Although he's not much of a T.V. fan as there's always the computer and video games that also occupy his time, he does have favorite programs they watch together. When he has questions about the programs on T.V., we open it up for discussion. - 4/5/2010   9:02:01 AM
  • 3
    Our children were not allowed to watch tv during the week . They were allowed to select 1/2 hour of non-violent (not easy to find) cartoons Saturday morning and were allowed to watch selected programs that we felt were educational. The focus was to be a participant - not an audience. They were active in sports and hobbies and both did well in school. While they did not appreciate it at the time, now that they are adults, they apply similar rules to their children. - 4/5/2010   8:20:52 AM
  • 2
    I watch a 3 year old. This winter he has really become a tv addict. I make sure he goes outside to play on days that it has not been raining. Even if it is for 15-20 due to the cold. We play hockey or see who can run the fastest. It is only after play time that I allow him to choose a cartoon or 1/2 of an educational movie. We are also playing, drawing, card games painting or coloring and learning his colors while having the TV on. Kids now days have a hard time pretend playing and using their imagination.
    We you ask him what he did in school all day he will tell you he played. I know this is not tally true. They do use play to learn. he will not tell you what he learned. - 4/5/2010   7:41:36 AM
  • 1
    There are several shows we watch together and we have TiVo so we rarely have to watch any commercials, which is really great. Also, this allows our viewing to be more on the weekends than during the week, which prevents television from interfering with homework and other activities. Another great thing is that our kitchen and den are one large room, so I usually know what my girls are watching, especially if I'm cooking or doing laundry. - 4/5/2010   7:36:59 AM

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