Television viewing has grown steadily since the first sets were introduced in Australia in the late
1950s. Have you ever really stopped and thought about how much time your kids or even your
whole family spend sitting in front of the telly? Some American studies have shown that extensive
television viewing may be to blame for aggressive or violent behaviour, poor academic
performance, increased sexual behaviour, obesity and substance abuse.
How do you respond to these studies? Most parents fall somewhere between tossing out the TV and
hiring it as a full-time babysitter. I know as a parent that at times, especially when my kids were
toddlers, I was very thankful to the TV and the ABC in particular for keeping my kids occupied for
a while. There has been an ongoing public debate about the role of TV in the lives of young people
and in light of this I would like to offer some suggestions about the role of television in family life
for you to consider:
Set physical limits on TV viewing. Turn the TV off during meals. It is very difficult to have
a deep conversation with a television going on in the background. Avoid “TV Dinners”, as
this will completely destroy a good opportunity to spend some time catching up with each
other’s day and spending some time together as a family. Is getting up early and watching TV
before coming to school really setting our kids up for a good day? Don’t be afraid to set time
limits on when the kids can and can’t watch TV.
Do not allow TV’s to extend into bedrooms. It is hard enough to get older kids to spend
time with the rest of the family as it is, when we allow them to establish their own
entertainment world within their bedrooms the danger is we might never see our teenagers
again! Teenagers do not need another reason to withdraw from the rest of family life.
Schedule viewing. Together, plan a weekly program schedule. This gives parents a chance to
offer good choices instead of always saying no to poor ones, and to set time limits in a
positive way. It also helps us to avoid the trap of simply turning into a channel surfing couch
potato. When you are finished watching the shows you planned on watching turn the TV off
and do something else! It is amazing how fast time can fly when we switch off our brains and
channel surf while not rally watching anything.
Be discerning. You are the parent. A parent’s role is to guide and protect your children. Are
you thinking about what type of shows our children are watching or are you allowing them to
rule the home? I have to admit that I am amazed at how many younger boys I hear are allowed
to watch shows that have program ratings that are beyond their years. Check out program
ratings, watch promo’s and even watch shows with your kids. Some things are not healthy for
a young growing mind to consume.
Plan weekly family nights. Turn off the TV and take out board games, go out for ice cream,
read books together, go for a walk. The key is to stay active and spend some time together as a
family. Communication is vital to a family’s health and it is very difficult to communicate in
front of a TV.
Be a good example. Ever had to grab for the remote when your child walked in? Take an
honest look at your own viewing habits. Remember the alcohol ads that are being shown
lately, our actions have a big impression on our children. If our actions do not back up our
words we are being hypercritical and our children can loose faith in us as leaders.
Who is having the biggest influence on your children, the television or you the parent? It is certainly
worth thinking about.
If I can be of assistance to you or your family or if you would like to give me any feedback on any
‘Chaplain’s Corner’ article please feel free to do so, on [email protected]
Shane McCarthy
School Chaplain
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