Is your child a TV junkie? 6 ways to break the habit

how to keep kids away from TV - ZenParent

Many of our kids have become TV junkies. The minute they walk into the house, watching TV becomes the default activity if there is no other activity going on in the house – sometimes even a parallel activity. As a result, reading books or being creative has really taken a back seat with many children.

They find the fast-paced action on TV more engaging than the effort it takes to read a book. Sometimes, the TV is on in many houses as a background sound. We also constantly hear of research showing how detrimental excessive TV watching by children is. Obesity, attention issues, even lowered intelligence have been cited as some of the detrimental effects of watching too much TV.

  • Go Cold Turkey: Sometimes, the best way to cure an addiction is to take drastic measures and cut it out altogether. But, of course, this would require a sacrifice from your part as well. Completely unplug the TV from Monday to Friday (or at least when your children are at home). Literally pull the plug out of its socket or stash away the remote.

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  • Have Back Up: Initially, at least, to help your children deal with the loss of TV, you need to have a backup plan of the kind of activities that they can do instead of watching TV. For example, make sure you have a stash of books or comics, board games, Lego or, if your child is the crafty kind, stock up on DIY craft kits. Encourage them to cook with you or do chores WITH you, like wash their bicycles or clean up the balcony. This will require some serious effort on you part as you would need to come up with a list of things they can do instead. If all else fails, take them out for a walk. They need this initial help from you to reengage in a different activity, as they do not have the habit of doing this.
  • Set Limits: If cold turkey simply will not work for your family, try to set limits. For example, the first 30 minutes after you come back from school you can watch TV and then the TV goes off for the rest of the day. Pick specific times that you can keep up with so that there is no confusion.

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  • Ask them for Alternatives: While you providing them with back up options is one thing, it is also important to ask them what they find interesting (Be prepared for “Nothing”…. which is where your back up plan comes into play). If your child would be more willing to play the piano when you sit near her, then you have to sit near her. Make it conducive for them to engage in other activities. Maybe you can sing along as they play or do something that will make it fun.
  • Pre—record shows: If you have the facility to record shows, record some good programs that your children can watch. This way there is control over what they are watching and also you can set limits easily – ‘One episode per day’ is easier to monitor than the clock. Also record some engaging family shows that you can watch together during a specified hour.

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  • Monitor elders watching TV serials: Sometimes, we have the senior citizens in the house watching back to back serials all evening. You have the option. Get them a small TV for their own room or enforce time limits for them as well! Sometimes, senior citizens also have to be managed like children! Maybe you can encourage them to switch off the TV and instead teach your kids some shlokas or if you are not the religious type even stories – storytelling is becoming a dying family activity. Record their shows so that they can watch it during the day while your kids are at school. If you cut out the ads, each episode would barely run for 15 minutes.

Increasingly today, adults are encouraged to do “Nothing”: As bizarre as it may sound, adults and kids today have lost the ability to just ‘be’. We always want to be plugged into a device or a screen. Creative thoughts can bloom only when we give the brain a break from the constant chattering. Sit with your children for 2 minutes, holding hands and “just be”-  Encourage them to draw or write any thoughts that come to their head. Experiment with being silent for 30 minutes with absolutely no sound in the house for a week and encourage everyone to become reflective. You might be amazed at what comes out of it!

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