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Tune Out TV This Summer


Now that school is out for the summer, are you afraid the only thing that will get a workout in your house is the TV? With so many hours to fill each day, it's natural that some kids will want to plop down on the floor or couch for a daily dose of cartoons, movies and game shows. While some TV viewing can be entirely appropriate, too much can quickly turn some kids into "tube junkies."

It's your call on how much TV your kids can watch. However, limiting the time spent in front of the TV generally means kids will put more thought into and be more selective about what they watch. This also frees up their time to get involved with other activities. Here are a few suggestions on how to limit TV time this summer:

Keep the TV off for a whole day.
This is the 24-hour test. If your kids don't know what to do with their time, it's a good clue that they are too dependent on television. Ironically, you may find that this test is harder on you than on your kids. If you fail the 24-hour test, don't feel bad. Try cutting back just a little on TV each day or week until you have cut back to almost nothing. One of the best things you can do is replace TV time with less sedentary activities (walking, biking, gardening).

Be a role model.
If you don't want a house full of couch potatoes, then don't act like one yourself. Breaking the habit is hard, but you can start by curbing your TV hours. Do this by using the newspaper or TV Guide to select just a few shows that you really want to watch. Don't spend the entire evening mindlessly channel surfing. Don't allow your children to watch programs that are inappropriate for their ages. And if you can't give up a program that is for mature viewers, tape it and watch it after your kids have gone to bed or are napping.

Give your kids other choices.
Structuring your children's time lets them enjoy useful, constructive activities instead of wasting hours staring at a TV screen. Television should not be a baby sitter. Block time for crafts, sports, exercise, reading or other activities. The more time your children spend doing constructive activities, the less time they have to watch TV.

Make TV viewing contingent on reading or doing chores.
If you are going to let your kids watch TV, have them do their chores or other activities first. In other words, say, "After you finish cleaning your room and helping Dad in the yard, then you can watch TV."

When your kids do watch TV, watch it with them. You can teach your children many lessons, including knowing the difference between what television tells us and sells us and what life is really like. But the more you can break your kids away from TV, the better. You will have more time to enjoy playing, working, shopping, and, most importantly, talking together as a family.