Television is a powerful force in your home, and can be used both for good and for ill. Recognizing that, you may want to devise means of controlling and "channelling" that power. The Alliance for Children and Television created a quiz to help parents assess whether television is interfering with their family life. It appears in their booklet Minding the Set: Making Television Work for You and Your Family (1994, 24 pages), produced by The Alliance with Rogers Cablesystems.
• Does your child play outside?
• Does she play with friends?
• Does he use his imagination?
• Does she do her homework and chores?
• Does he have a hobby?
• Does she enjoy sports, music, reading?
If you answered No to three or more questions, then ask the following questions:
• When friends come over, do their children sit with yours in front of the television for the entire visit?
• When it snows, would your child rather keep watching TV than go outside to build a snowman or go sledding?
• Does she watch first thing in the morning, after school, before bed, and all weekend?
• Do you have trouble getting him to come to the dinner table or go to bed because he's watching TV?
Give yourself 1 point for every Sometimes and 2 points for every Always. Never scores 0 points. If you scored 4 or more, then television is probably interfering with your lives. Negotiate some rules with your kids about what programs they may watch.
There are several ways to manage TV watching in your household. Once you decide how much is enough, tell your kids, and then stick to your decision. You might settle on one hour per day or give your child a number of hours per week and let her spend them as she likes. You might limit her to programs on certain days of the week, say from Thursday through Sunday, or restrict her viewing choices to only certain channels.
Use the remote control to scan the programs available at regular times. Read the weekly TV listings together to select special programs. If there are movies or programs that your child wants to watch but that cause you some concern, watch them together and discuss the issues involved. If you have a VCR, don't let your child's favourite program prevent her from participating in another activity. Videotape the program and play it at a more convenient time. One way to curtail kids' viewing - and your own - is to keep your TV set in the least comfortable room in the house.
Excerpted from Raising Great Kids editted by Christine Langlois. Copyright 1999 by Telemedia Commications Inc. Excerpted, with permission by Ballantine Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.