No chore in watching TV by childgrower A. Woz.

foot in shells caelA Nielsen Co. reports kids are watching more television than ever and television viewing for children ages 2-11 is the highest since 1995.  Kids ages 6-11 watch 28 hours a week with about 4.5 hours on DVD.  And worse, kids age 2-5 are watching 32 hours- yes, that’s even more than the 6-11 year olds, presumably because they are not in school.

A quick assessment of my kids viewing habits revealed that they watch about two hours a day and we get in a family movie night about twice a month.  Between sports practices, nightly homework and school and community events my kids appreciate and take advantage of down time, and usually it comes in the form of channel surfing especially if it is too late for the neighbor kids to come out to play. 

I’m not surprised about the Nielsen stats.

About a decade ago, there was a big push for educational television that could capture the infant and toddler population. Yes, really. Videos used the colors black, white and red since research showed those colors caught the attention of infant brains. Yes, TV for babies! I guess the thought was that if kids were watching more TV then they should be watching better quality TV.

I’m wondering if the amount of chores done by kids to help keep the house running smoothly has also decreased? Frankly, I don’t have time for television because I’m doing all the laundry and dishes while they watch.  If I could get the kids to do more laundry and dishes and trash duty then they’d also watch less TV.  If they want to help me cook or sort out the pile of power rangers and legos dotting the living room carpet then I could watch the nightly news- at least that would be something to feed the brain.

Oh, never mind, news is too violent. Maybe I’d rather have them watching  sitcoms.  Clearly watching TV is not brain development at it’s best, but they are occupied.

And being occupied is what it comes down to.

I admit it is much more work to engage my kids in a board game or a walk to the park than it is to turn on the tube. 

I don’t initiate interactive time at home unless it involves helping me keep the house running.  This seems to be a momism- we aren’t so hot at playing, but we are great at organizing and correcting! I cite lots of excuses for my kids tv viewing habits like:

  • My kids time is already too structured and they need down time.
  • My classic educational excuse of only watching public television or shows that are respectful of adults and language.
  • I honestly would wrestle someone for the rights to alleviate my parental sleep deprivation with an hour of mindless television when the kids wake me at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning.

And what about together time? So where’s the statistics on TV watching with a parent?  Dad loves races our oldest daughter to the remote. The stress of his job and I guess the stress of her growing up job allows him to define TV watching as an activity affording the necessary together time for dad and daughter- who have so little time together- to explore interests and opinions of each other as they talk about the show.

Given the rise of childhood obesity, declining educational standards and the rates of health problems linked to an inactive lifestyle,  I can see why the media jumps on statistics like the 30 odd hours of couch potato madness. But, until TVs are powered by a family of viewers walking uphill on treadmills,  I think we are going to have some sedentary TV watching going on for a long time across America.

But there’s hope and it comes in the form of inquisitive kids who can play until they drop, then simply eat a handful of cheez-its and poof! they pop back up ready for a game of kickball while begging Dad to be all time pitcher. 

We read parenting books and work hard on patience, consistency and communication but kids instinctively know what is good for them. They don’t need to read it in the paper. When it comes right down to it, we might like the convenience of TV, but we really like what makes our kids happy (cuz when they are laughing, they aren’t arguing, talking back, hitting each other, etc!) 

We just have to be willing to listen. A frontline report from my three kids is a great example. We went out to dinner and then drove to the theatre (yes, sort of like inconvenient and expensive television) only find that the movie we wanted to see had started a half hour earlier than we thought.  As we drove away the kids spotted the local bowling alley and shouted out, “Lets go bowling!”

Dad and I looked at each other and made no argument. The kids chose something active and they were all in agreement.  No sibling rivalry! Everyone was happy! Non-violent, brain engaging, physical stress relief for parents and kids! And I got out of doing the laundry!

### for EP by A. Woz. October 28, 2009.

One Response

  1. I do know a couple of kids that probably fit in that 28-32 hours of tv viewing and I feel sad that they don’t see the wonderful world that is waiting for them out the front door. I have been blessed 3 active kids. Just today they had 1/2 of a day of school and when I got home they were outside with the neighbors playing football in the yard. It made me feel good to see them doing that.

    And the last paragraph about bowling instead of a movie is something that I have experienced too. And it ended up being cheaper to go bowling…. imagine that.

    Keep up the great writing Annita!!!!!

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