TV Time

James Mehring

Last week was TV-Turnoff Week. The challenge was sponsored by TV-Turnoff Network, a nonprofit organization out to reduce TV watching among children and adults. I must admit that my family did not actively participate but it’s not like we have much time to settle down in front of the set right now. It also helps that a good share of our cable channels are fuzzy due to some old cable wiring in our apartment. That keeps me from watching too much ESPN. But I digress.

I am revisiting the television watching issue after reading an amazing statistic published on the TV-Turnoff Network website. On average, children in the US will spend more time in front of the television (1,023 hours) than in school this year (900 hours). When I was growing up I watched my fair share of MASH reruns and Steelers football (finally, one for the thumb), but I don't believe I spent more time in front of the TV than in the classroom.

Another organization called TV Watch offers some useful tips for managing viewing habits all year long. If you check out TV Watch just keep in mind that it’s underlying goal is to fend off further government regulation of the airwaves. Anyway, here are the useful tips offered up.

• Use your VCR or DVR to make your own family-friendly video library. If you record programs, children can play outside when it’s sunny and watch what you’ve recorded when it’s raining or when you can’t watch with them.

• Set time limits on how much television your child can watch per day or per week, with enough flexibility to change the limits under special circumstances, like rainy days.

• Use the ratings system and the parental control features that come with your TV, cable set-top box or satellite, to screen out objectionable content when you just don’t have the time to watch with your children.

• Plan ahead. Sit down with the TV guide at the beginning of the week and agree on what shows can be watched. The schedule should include some of your kids'favorite shows as well as programs you would like them to see.

• Schedule family viewing times. You can watch what your children choose and discuss the content with them.

• Be consistent. Make sure that you and your partner agree on what shows your children can watch. Create a checklist and post it on the refrigerator to remind you, your children and caregivers of the rules of the household.

All the tips are just common sense but I know that it can be a challenge. I try to curb my usage of the computer at home. The computer is turned on every morning and it is usually turned off long after the TV. I need it for work and school. But once I’ve finished an assignment I often linger on the computer surfing the net. It’s the interactive nature of the Internet and all the information available that makes it so appealing. Thirty minutes on the web can pass like 30 seconds. So while my wife and I have a good handle on the TV, I need to come up with a couple ways to reduce my computer usage.

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