University of Illinois Extension

Is Television Spending More Time with Your Grandkids than You Are?

Jennifer Zimmerman, Youth Development Educator

Media is a major influence on today's youth, although its effects are not always readily apparent. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics February 2001 Report, the average child spends approximately three hours a day watching television.

Although studies disagree about the direct impact that TV violence has on children, most experts agree that too much TV is just not a good thing. Here are some ways you can take control over the television that your grandkids watch.

Talk with the kids about what they are watching. Make sure they understand the program and its issues.

Educate kids about what to look for when watching TV. What is the message? Who created the message? How are the people and lifestyles in this program similar and different from your family situation?

Limit how much TV children watch and what they watch. If possible, preview the programs before they watch them.

Encourage the kids to be critical viewers. Who is the message targeting? What is omitted from the message? What points of view are portrayed in the message?

View television with children and discuss what they see in both programs and commercials. Jean Kilbourne's video Killing Us Softly 3 reveals that the average American spends three years of his/her life just watching television commercials! Stress that TV programs and commercials are created to target certain audiences and make money.

Invite other adults to discuss their concerns about television with you - share and learn from each other.

Set an example for children. Carefully choose what you watch and limit your own intake of TV viewing.

Instruct others who care for your children to follow these tips.

Open the lines of communication for future discussions with children about television and media.

Never use TV as a babysitter!