How to promote good television habits
Parents hear a lot about the negative effects of television. Because there are hundreds of stations available with many types of programs, it can be hard to control your child’s viewing. But when used the right way, and with your involvement, TV can have a positive effect on your child.
These tips can help you promote good TV habits in your home. They may also help protect your child from the negative influences of television.
For the whole family:
- Make sure your child watches programs you are familiar with and whenever you can, watch them together. Don’t use the TV as a caregiver.
- Violence on TV can affect your child’s behaviour. Be sure your child is not watching programs with violence, sex or bad language.
- Children learn from what they see. The morals and values found in a TV show or on a commercial might be different from what you believe. Set a good example with your own viewing habits. You’ll help your children learn your values and ideas.
- If you have taped the show, fast-forward through any commercials.
- Explain the rules of TV watching in your home to caregivers such as nannies or grandparents.
- The Canadian Paediatric Society discourages screen-based activities (TV, video games, hand-held devices, etc) for children under 2. Limit daily TV watching to less than 1 to 2 hours a day for older children. Remember less is best when it comes to screen time. Use your free time for other family activities—reading, visiting museums, walking, biking, or whatever you enjoy.
- Encourage your child to watch programs that help teach: shows about nature, science, the arts, music or history.
- Turn off the TV during meals, when visitors arrive and during study time. Don’t use the TV as background noise.
- Bedtimes should be consistent. They should not change because of a TV show. If your child wants to see a program that airs past her bedtime, consider recording it.
- Consider using the V-chip. This technology allows you to filter out certain programming. All new TV sets with screens of 33 cm (13") or more now have internal V-chips. Set-top boxes are available for TVs made before 2000.
For younger children (toddlers and preschoolers):
- Talk about the ideas and activities your child sees on TV, such as sharing, giving, loving or doing the alphabet together. Use follow-up activities to teach why these things are important.
- Build a video library of your child’s favourite shows—young children love to watch the same programs over and over again.
For older children (school-aged children):
- Don’t let your child have a TV in her bedroom.
- Older children can plan a weekly viewing schedule, but parents should still supervise their choices. Praise your child for good choices, and encourage him to discuss what he sees on TV.
- Help your child understand the differences between fantasy, make-believe and reality. Discuss and explain why she can’t watch certain programs. This is a chance to explain the values you feel are important.
- Television is a powerful tool for selling or promoting toys and products. Discuss commercials with your child and explain that they are meant to sell something.
- Make a rule that homework and chores must be finished before your child can watch television. Consider a “no TV” rule during the school week.
Reviewed by the following CPS committees:
Public Education Advisory Committee
Last updated: October 2008