Make TV a Choice, Not a Habit
What can you do if your family uses TV in habitual and unconscious ways? The trick is to make watching TV a conscious activity. Make turning on the TV something children elect to do, rather than a choice they make when they’re not doing something else. You can instill in your children the notion that “We don’t watch TV, we watch TV programs.” You can begin to change the ways your children use TV by entering into a simple series of dialogues with them:
Change their patterns. If your children want to watch TV, have them ask you first. Just as they ask you if they can go out and play, agree that they must ask you if they can watch TV.
Answer with questions. Don’t just answer yes or no; ask “What do you want to watch? What’s on?” Ask them if there’s something else they’ve been thinking of doing, like reading or playing outside.
Ask yourself some questions. Is there some other activity that is better worth their time? Can I motivate them not to click on the set, to involve themselves in something else?
Start them on another activity. Take the time, set aside what you’re doing and get involved. Supervise the start of another activity: Choose a book together, lay out the ingredients for the next meal.
The more your family’s TV viewing becomes conscious, the greater your chances will be to turn it to more educational uses. Begin to think of television viewing as an intentional act. Intentional television can become intelligent television.
From The Smart Parent’s Guide to Kids’ TV by Milton Chen, Ph.D.