How to help your children avoid bad TV habits

April 2, 2008

Be involved in your children's TV time, avoid TV snacking, and limit how much they watch.

Key Points

Messages from the media and research may cause parents to feel guilty about allowing their children to watch TV. Instead of feeling that you are doing the wrong thing, be thoughtful about how your children can use the TV wisely.

-Limit the time that your children can watch TV, and choose informational, educational, and nonviolent programs for them to watch. You can also use DVDs to help you select the right type of programs. Although too much TV is not healthy, what your child watches on TV and how your child watches it is more important.

-If you are not in the room viewing TV with your children, it is important that you know what they are viewing. Watching TV with your children actually improves the positive effects of good programming. It can also lessen the effects of negative programming.

-Children should not eat while they are watching TV. Snacking increases caloric intake, so if eating does occur in front of the TV, make sure the snacks are low-calorie foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Giving in to your child's desire to eat junk food is one of the ways TV viewing can lead to overweight.

-Do not keep TVs in your child's bedroom. Children tend to watch more TV when there is a television in their room. In addition, you cannot see what they are viewing so you cannot monitor the content.

Adapted with permission from Christakis DA, Zimmerman FJ: Elephant in the living room: Make TV work for your kids, Rodale Press, 2006