It is possible to use the television in a creative and constructive manner. It requires a mind-shift, as the TV must be recognized as a tool rather than a stationary member of the family. Here are some ways you can incorporate creative TV viewing in your family.
Make watching TV a family affair – not a babysitter!
While it is tempting and often convenient to plop children in front of the TV so you can get something done, it encourages passive TV watching. You lose control over what is being watched and opportunities to engage your child. When you can’t be in the room, try to use a different activity to occupy your children instead.
Watch TV actively – not passively!
Have family conversations and ask questions about the programs you are watching. Try comprehension questions such as: who, what, where, when, why, and how, as these help develop children’s critical thinking and reasoning skills. You could also ask children for their opinions or to choose a viewpoint expressed in the program and whether or not they agree with the position.
According to American Psychological Association the average child watches more than 40,000 television commercials a year. Our children are being bombarded with marketing messages, most of which are for products that do more harm than good – sugary cereal, toys that offer no creative or educational value, or the latest name brands you “have” to have. If possible, avoid commercials by watching programs commercial free on the Internet or by using Tivo.
Alternately, you can adopt a healthy TV policy where you mute the television every time a commercial comes on and use the time for family exercise. This only works if everyone gets involved. You can lead stretches, run in place, dance like crazy, get an exercise trampoline – anything that your family enjoys that gets them limber or their blood pumping. It’s also a great time to work in conversation and the discussion required for Active TV watching.
Choose your programs wisely!
Plan which programs you will watch as a family. There are some wonderful, creative, and educational programs on at regular times. Decide, as a family, which ones you will watch and why. Make sure there are benefits to the programs you choose, whether they are educational, creative, or inspiring. Be on the lookout for programs and specials that your whole family would enjoy. Many talk shows often have segments featuring creative children who have special talents or are making a difference in the world. You don’t have to watch the entire program, just what is interesting to your family.
There are many opportunities to use the television as a creative family bonding tool. With a little thought and planning you can turn TV time into creative family time.