Television for kids can quickly go from a fun way to spend time to an addiction. Finding other activities to do instead of watching TV helps engage your child with other things and practice useful skills, like reading, exercising, being creative, or playing a sport. Limiting television time and encouraging healthy TV habits when you do watch are also ways to help stop your child’s addiction to television.
Doing Other Activities
Encourage your child to read a book instead of watching cartoons.
Instead of immediately turning on the TV after school, sit down with your child to read a book. Reading will promote your child’s imagination and help learn new vocabulary words.
- Find books on things your child is interested in, like dinosaurs, dogs, or airplanes.
- If your child does not want to read, reward them with one episode of a cartoon for reading for a half hour.
Write a story with your child instead of pressing the “on” button.
Your child can create characters similar to the ones on TV and create adventures to go on. Encouraging imagination through writing short stories will stimulate your child’s mind. Give your child ideas to get started with, a sentence prompt, or a theme.
- For example, you can use the writing prompt “Write a story about your favorite superhero,” or “Write about vacation.”
- If your child refuses, suggest to read a book instead.
Stock up on art supplies and encourage your child to get creative.
Buy crayons, markers, colored pencils, or paint and set up art time for your child. Use a variety of art supplies to foster creative inspiration for your child. This can result in hours of entertainment away from the screen.
- Have your child pick out the art supplies with you to get their imagination going.
- If your child refuses, try other art supplies until something clicks and seems fun.
Take your child on a day trip instead of the movies.
Take a trip to a museum, amusement park, or playground. Go somewhere your child will enjoy and learn something from.
- Show your child some options of places to go and have them pick out the place that interests them most.
- If they refuse, take your child to run errands with you, like to the mall, grocery store, or gas station. Getting out of the house and doing something else will help cut back on TV time.
Go on a walk with your child instead of zoning out in front of the TV.
Take your pet or a bicycle and go to a favorite park with your child. Try to get at least a half hour of exercise a day.
- Have a reward destination in mind, like an ice cream shop or arcade. This will help motivate the child to do the activity and reward them for choosing something other than watching TV.
Play board games with your family in substitution of the television.
Find an age-appropriate and engaging game to play with just your child or as a whole family. This will vary by your child’s age group, but some classic examples include Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders, Yahtzee, Go Fish, War, and Life.
- Let your child pick out the game to make sure they enjoy it.
- If you child refuses, make it necessary to play one game before they can watch an hour of TV.
Sign your child up for a club or sports team.
Separating your child from the TV by spending time with other children will help them forget about the TV over time. Sign up for girl or cub scouts, a local soccer team, or gymnastic lessons.
- Have your child pick the activity that seems the most fun.
- Take them to meetings once a week even if they don’t seem interested.
Teach your child how to play an instrument or arrange lessons.
Learn and practice an instrument. Music is a great way to engage your child, and they can choose from variety of different instruments. You can teach them at home or get them private lessons. Good instruments to start with include guitar, violin, and piano.
- Give your child a few suggestions of instruments to play, and let them pick.
- If they refuse, try another hobby they may like better, like karate or tap dancing.
Limiting TV Time
Set a schedule and stick with it.
Create guidelines of how long to watch television each day. Do you want your children to watch TV right after school? After they do their homework? Or after dinner?
- Your schedule could start with only two hours of television a day.
- You can also make your TV time at a specific time every day, like after dinner at 6:00 pm.
Limit TV time while doing other activities.
It is easy to fall into a TV addiction if the screen is always on. Turning off the television while doing things like cooking, cleaning, eating dinner, or doing homework can cut down on excessive TV time.
Hide the remote aside from designated times to watch.
After you make your TV schedule, stick with it by taking away the remote and unplugging your TV. This will enforce your rules and limit overall TV time.
Stop watching all together.
If your child is still displaying TV addiction symptoms, stop watching television as a whole. Remove the TV from its location or disconnect the power cord. This will ensure there will be no watching TV. The less television your child is used to having in their day-to-day lives, the less they will miss it.
- Also try doing this for just a week or over the weekends to limit television time but not cut it out cold turkey. This will give your family a break from depending on technology, especially if your child has a serious addiction. After your TV break, your child may not want to watch TV quite as much.
Encouraging Healthy TV Habits
Watch television together as a family.
Focus on the program with your child rather than multitasking with something else. This will not only help you become aware of what your child is exposed to, but also connect as a family.
Be a role model with your television habits.
If you want your child to cut back with watching TV, you need to monitor your use as well. Turn it off when you aren’t watching, and be intentional with when you do watch TV. Children are influenced by their parents’ examples, so set a good one by not watching too much television.
Choose what to watch ahead of time and only watch TV during that program.
Select a show or movie to watch with your child. Watching TV consciously will show your child that you should be engaged when watching television. This will reinforce proper TV viewing times rather than watching only when bored.
Help your child make smart choices while watching TV.
Teach your child the difference between an advertisement and a TV show, and talk about what aspects of a given show happen in real life. This will help them understand that not everything on TV is real and true. Encourage your child to choose to stop watching TV after so many episodes and do something else.
- You can say something like, “Hey Nicholas, see that? That is a commercial, something that shows you something to buy. This is not part of the show, okay?”
- After the show, say something like: “When that guy hit the guy in the blue hat, that is not something you want to do in real life. Hitting strangers is not okay.”
Remove TV from their bedroom and limit time watched before bed.
It is easy for a child to become dependent on television if they can turn it on at all times of day. Keep your screen location contained to the family room. Not having a screen in their bedroom will eliminate time spent watching.
- Be mindful to not have them watch TV during the hour before their bedtime, to give your child a break from the screen and help them sleep better.
- Try to prevent your child’s TV usage from even becoming an addiction by taking these steps early on, as preventative measures.