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A Guide to Managing Television: Tips for Your Family


How can we limit the amount of time spent watching TV?

  • Make very specific rules about when children can and cannot watch television.  For example, do not allow TV during meals, homework or when parents are not around.
  • AAP guidelines recommend that parents limit their children’s viewing to one to two hours per day at most. 
  • An alternative is to limit TV to one hour on school nights and two to three hours a day on weekends. 
  • You may want to allow a little extra viewing time for special educational programs.
  • If your child is doing poorly in school limit TV time to half an hour each day, or entirely eliminate TV, except for limited time on the weekends.
  • Make it a rule that children must finish homework and chores before watching television.  If your child’s favorite show is on before the work can be done, then record the show to watch later. 
  • The best rule is no TV during the week, and limited weekend TV.  This ensures that kids are not rushing to finish their homework so they can watch a favorite show.  It also frees up more time for family interaction during the busy weekdays.  For example, instead of parking the kids in front of the TV while you fix dinner, have them help you get ready for dinner. Even young children can slice a cucumber with a dull knife or put silverware on the table.


How can we keep TV from dominating our family life?


  • Keep the TV off during family mealtimes.
  • Make conversation a priority in your home.
    • Interacting more will help your children improve their conversational skills.
    • It will improve your relationship with your kids, and keep the lines of communication open.
  • Read to your children.
    • Show your kids that you enjoy reading.  Let them see you reading rather than watching TV to relax.
  • Don’t use TV as a reward or punishment.
    • This gives the TV too much value, and takes value away from what they had to do to earn the TV time.
  • Encourage active recreation.
  • Don't use the TV as a distraction or baby-sitter for preschool children.
  • Get the TV sets out of your children's bedrooms.  
    • If your child complains that all their friends have their own TV sets in their rooms, remind them that you are going to do what you feel is best for them, because you care.

How do I stay involved with what my kids are watching?

  • Find out how to talk to your child about the news.  TV news and images can be violent, disturbing or sensational.  Help your child put the news in context.

How do I guide my child's TV viewing?

  • Find out how big a presence TV is in your kids' lives.
    • Use this Screen Time Log to keep track of how much time they spend in front of the TV, video games, and the computer.
  • Pay attention to what is in the TV shows your child watches.
  • Encourage educational shows,
  • Avoid violent shows—keeping in mind that shows targeted to kids tend to be more violent than adult shows—especially cartoons.  
  • Use the TV Parental Guidelines rating system to help you determine which shows may be appropriate for your child.  
  • Limit late night television.  Kids need to get to bed at a reasonable time, anyway.
  • Keep track of and reduce all kinds of screen time, including watching TV, watching DVDs, playing video games, and using the computer for games, messaging, and Internet surfing.

How do I help my children plan their TV viewing?

  • Plan a weekly TV schedule and teach your child to turn off the TV set at the end of their show.
  • Do not allow channel surfing—only planned viewing. 
  • Use a TV guide or newspaper to decide which shows to watch instead of channel surfing until something gets your interest.
  • Sit down each week with your child and choose suitable children’s and family programs from the weekly TV listings.  
  • Turn the TV on for these programs only. Turn it off and discuss the programs when they’re over.   

If the TV stays on your child will probably become interested in the next show and then it will be harder to stop watching.



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