When a neighbor heard about the "no TV" rule that Dabney Grinnan established when her kids were young, he told her she was being "Draconian." But according to the experts, the Chapel Hill mom was doing just what many doctors now order. Based on research linking too much TV to poor grades, obesity and aggressive behavior, organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics are recommending little to no TV for kids under 5 and less than 2 hours per day for older kids.
It's not just the shows kids watch that are problematic, health experts say. It's also the commercials aimed at children as young as toddlers. Take the fact that American kids now drink twice as much soda as milk. Twenty years ago, the opposite was true. The difference is commercial marketing of soft drinks--much of it on TV.
Grinnan, who has an 11-year-old, a 9-year-old and 6-year-old twins, has relaxed the media prohibitions in her home over the years (the family recently bought a Playstation because their eldest was "the only kid in his class this year who didn't have a Game Boy or a Playstation," Grinnan says. "I didn't want it to be a social liability." ) But her family still rarely watches television except for sporting events and she and husband, Gregg Ruff, also set strict limits on the amount of Web surfing, movie and video watching their children do. There are no restrictions on the books they read. And each child's room is equipped with a tape player for music or stories they want to hear on tape. The kids do lots of art projects, play board games and puzzles--"all the things people used to do before TV," Grinnan says.
Here are some other recommendations for parents from Raleigh-based LimiTV and the Wake County MediSmart coalition.
Set clear limits on the use of media in your home (LimiTV recommends a maximum of one hour of TV on weekdays and 2 hours on weekends)
Involve your children in the plan
Keep track of how much your kids are watching and what they are watching
Turn off the TV if no one is watching
Discuss ground rules for watching TV at friends' houses
Require that homework be completed before the TV is turned on
Express clear opinions about media images you see
Compare on-screen actions to real life and discuss the effects of violence
Discuss your child's feelings about images they see
Keep the TV in a room where you can watch with your kids; don't let them have sets in their own rooms
Encourage other activities such as reading, board games, listening to music, crafts, storytelling, conversation, day dreaming