University of Illinois Extension

When It Comes to Media Time, Less Is Best

Milly Kaiser, Family Life Educator

Is your family addicted to watching Survivor, or captivated with video games and the Internet? If so, it's time to take charge and cut down on the media use in your home.On average, American children ages 2 to 17 watch 25 hours of television, play seven hours of video games, and engage in four hours of Internet in a week (Gentile & Walsh, 2002).

There are plenty of good reasons to take charge of your family's media use. When school-age children watch hours of TV each day, their grades can suffer. When children repeatedly see violent programs and video games, they may decide that violence is the way to solve problems. And, rising obesity in children is another good reason to get kids off the couch and involved in physical activity.

So how can you get your grandkids to "buy into" some media-free time? Give them some alternatives. Depending on your grandchildren's ages, you can plan activities that will be fun for the whole family. Here are just a few ideas:

Plan a Weekly Game Night

Choose games that the whole family can play. Games like musical chairs, hot potato, and a scavenger hunt are old-time favorites that kids still like. Board games and card games are another option. Depending on how old the children are, family members may have several games going on at the same time.

Try an Arts and Crafts Day

This activity is especially fun for young children. Gather art supplies like paper, crayons, markers, watercolor paints, glitter, old pieces of fabric, glue, large paper sacks, and even worn-out socks. Encourage children to create pictures, sock puppets, masks, or anything else that they want.

Plan Physical Fitness Time

Choose an activity that the whole family can do together. When the weather is nice, take a bike ride or a walk around the neighborhood. For the indoor days, dance or do stretching exercises to fun music.

Have a Weekly Cookie Day

This tradition appeals to kids of all ages... even teens. Set aside one day a week when your grandchildren can invite a friend home to bake cookies. The kids will enjoy the activity, and you'll get better acquainted with your grandchildren's friends.

Gentile, D.A., Walsh, D.A. (2002, Jan. 28). A normative study of family media habits. Applied Developmental Psychology, 23, 157-178.