Is it Time to Turn Off the TV?

Posted on May 26, 2011

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Did you know?

  • 98 percent of American households have at least one TV
  • The average adult, by the age of 65, will have spent nine years watching TV
  • Children watch an average of 27 hours of TV a week. By age 18, the American child has spent more time watching TV than time in school
  • Studies show that children who watch a lot of TV are more likely to be overweight or obese

These numbers may be shocking but there is a simple solution. Turn It Off.

Turning off the TV is a great way to improve your health and your family’s health. Watching less TV helps you to get more exercise and eat a healthier diet. When you watch TV, you sit still for long periods of time. And all those television commercials for fatty, sugary, salty foods also encourage an unhealthy diet. One study found 8 commercials for unhealthy foods during every 10 minutes of TV time.

Suggestions for Limiting Television

For everyone:

  • Take the TV out of the living room.  Put it out of the way, but not in a bedroom
  • Cover the TV with a cloth or close the doors of the entertainment center so the blank screen does not call to you
  • Choose a program to be watched and turn the TV off when it is over
  • Keep track of how much TV you are actually watching and what shows you watch. Try keeping a journal for a week
  • Keep the TV off during meals

For families with children:

  • Make a family rule that sets a limit on TV time (2 hours per day maximum) – and stick with it
  • Make one day every week be “no TV day” and plan a fun activity you can do together instead
  • Make sure young children cannot turn on the television by themselves
  • Make sure you always know what your children are watching. Preview shows or watch with your children
  • Do not use the TV as a reward
  • Limit your own TV watching to set a good example for children

In your community:

  • Organize a National Turn Off the TV Week effort in your community or child’s school
  • Ask your child’s day care provider, school, and after-school program what their policies are about TV.  Make sure they understand your values and concerns about your child watching TV while in their care
  • Talk to your neighborhood library or community center about what type of activities they offer or could organize to adults, elders, families, or children.  Offer to volunteer time to help make them happen
  • Learn more about the impact of junk food advertising on children.  Support efforts to limit the ability of companies to advertise to children

Alternatives to Television

For adults:

  • Read.  Join a book group at the library.
  • Go for a walk
  • Join a community organization that needs volunteers. (Many Boston community centers have volunteer opportunities.)
  • Get moving – borrow an exercise DVD from the library
  • Take up a hobby
  • Do a jigsaw puzzle

For families with children:

  • Children can entertain themselves. It is okay for them to be bored sometimes.  It is part of a natural process of leaning to be self-directed and resourceful
  • Provide basic materials for children to create and play with:  Balls, rope, cards, crayons and paper, pail and shovel, etc.
  • Expect messiness. Teach children to clean up their mess when they’re done
  • Let children play in groups, especially multi-age groups. Children of all ages can learn from each other
  • Find playmates for children in your neighborhood
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Posted in: Health, News, Nutrition