The American Academy of Pediatrics
recommends that children under the age of 2 not watch television at
"There's a lot of research on the
effects of television on children, and these studies usually find no
effect or a negative effect -- rarely are the outcomes positive.
Children who watch a lot of TV from an early age are at greater risk
for violence and obesity and are more susceptible to commercial
messages," said Aaron Ebata, a family life specialist with
University of Illinois Extension.
"It's not clear how much of these
effects are due just to TV, but we do know that watching television
also takes time away from families, who are already in a time
crunch," he added.
Ebata cites statistics from Extension's
new "Intentional Harmony: Balancing Work and Life" curriculum:
Time spent watching television today is
time that earlier generations used to make social connections in
their communities, says Robert Putnam in "Bowling Alone: The
Collapse and Revival of American Community." Hobbies and volunteer
work or simply sitting and chatting with friends over a cup of
coffee is time better spent, Putnam contends. He says being
connected to the social world is vital to our well-being.
[to top of second column in
Ebata, who says he enjoys TV as much as
anyone else, suggests limiting and planning your television
watching. Have a particular show in mind, and don't watch simply to
fill time. "And turn the television off when you're not watching,"
he said. "Don't keep it on for background noise. Turn it off during
specified family times, such as meals."
He also said it can help to have only
one television in the house, in a common area such as a living room.
"In some households, there are three or
four televisions, with each family member tuned to a different
program," the specialist said. "Obviously, when people are watching
television alone, they're not interacting with each other. Plan your
free time so that you're including things like talking and having
fun with family members, exercising, and getting involved in
worthwhile efforts in your community."
When you do watch TV, Ebata recommends
watching shows together that the whole family can enjoy or selecting
specific videos or DVDs rather than watching whatever might be on
the networks or cable. Many public libraries now have good
collections of videos that are "family friendly." Then, when the
program's over, turn off the television and talk about it to help
your children develop "media literacy."
"As you slowly begin to wean yourself
away from the television, you may find that family members are
resistant," Ebata said. "When people are used to a lot of TV, they
may feel bored and irritable at first. Have a plan and fill the time
with activities, such as games, walks, bike riding, cooking and
this plan if you plan to go cold turkey for a week starting April
19. As you rediscover your family and friends though, you may wonder
what took you so long.
[University of Illinois news