I Was A TV Tyrant - how you can limit your children's TV viewing!

I Was A TV Tyrant And Proud Of It

When my two children were growing up our home on occasion could be very unpopular with them and their friends. Did I allow my two and their friends to plant themselves in front of the telly, munch junk food and generally become monosyllabic, grunting zombies? No! I thought having friends over meant doing "special" things. I guess a mother's, and children’s, ideas of what’s special can be worlds apart.


I’d rummage through the cupboards and retrieve an assortment of arts and crafts items for them to get creative with. Or ask them to leaf through the children's recipe book and mix-up the ingredients of a tasty recipe. More often than not these didn't end up that tasty I hasten to add. If it was sunny I'd always suggest getting out for a run-about in the local park.


Often the children would roll their eyes at my suggestions. Undoubtedly thinking it’d be more fun to watch some mindless antics on children's TV that didn't require stretching their minds or bodies in any meaningful way. You'd think I sprouted horns and vampire-like incisors with some of their looks. But being essentially polite children they'd soldier on with what this pesky mother had suggested they might like to do.


When we didn't have any child-sized guests around I was equally tyrannical with my children's TV viewing habits. After one of my "fun" activities they were allowed half-an-hour. Mind you, it was a quality half-hour not something like Neighbours or Home and Away. My children would plaintively ask why they couldn’t watch these things as all their friends did. Invariably my reply was that I didn't care if their friends turned their brains to mush viewing soap operas but they weren’t going to do so! At times it was a struggle particularly when some new children’s programme was being splashed across every TV screen bar ours by their account.


With yet another report on how much time children spend watching television and the negative effects of this, believe me there are pay-offs to implementing a TV tyranny in your household. Teenagers are watching on average nearly three hours a day and younger children on average around two hours per day. Dazzled by the advertising within much of their viewing not only can the average British child name four times more brands than the score of their IQs (around 400) but this leads to incessant demands for more commercial goods. Even worse though is that children who watch more TV are more likely to become obese, more likely to be aggressive, more socially inhibited, more likely to become depressed and more likely to under-achieve at school. More is definitely less in TV terms!


How You Can Become A Fully-Fledged TV Tyrant

1. If your children have always "enjoyed" a telly-fest, free-for-all then sit them down and explain that things are changing. Sound them out about their interests. These may relate to things they've seen on telly that can be transmitted into something active rather than passive viewing.

2. Establish ground rules about how much viewing will be allowed on school nights and weekends. Stick to this. If they’ve a favourite programme that comes smack in the middle of when you should sit down to supper together, tape it, and let them watch it later. To avoid future arguments about what was agreed, write it down.
3. Always have other activities available in your household. From a simple cookery book, to arts and crafts items, they can paint, bake, and create their way to happiness.

4. Post a list of the detrimental effects of TV on your fridge door (see above) to regularly remind yourself why you’re becoming a TV tyrant.

5. Enlist your partner, or other responsible adults who care for your children, in your plan to cut down their viewing habits.

6. The most shock-horror tactic of every TV tyrant is to take the TV out of their room until they demonstrate to you, perhaps at the age of 14 or 15, that they'll participate in other activities and do their schoolwork before any viewing time.

7. Finally, don't forget you’re the parent here. What you say should go. If you can be patient during a period of adjustment while they go “cold turkey” from endless TV viewing to reasonable TV viewing it's a win-win situation.


Having mentioned the many detrimental effects of TV I'll now let you in on the many benefits to being a TV tyrant. Once you're over the hurdles of instigating a new regime you’ll undoubtedly find your children engage with you more in conversation and are more interested in the world as well as being more interesting themselves. They’ll be less wound-up at bedtime and more able to sit still during meal times. They may receive better school reports and generally seem happier.


But perhaps the real rewards come later in life. I realised my TV tyranny had truly paid off only recently when I bumped into a school pal of one of my children's. We caught up on what they'd been doing since finishing university recently. I was taken aback when this young adult told me of the fond memories they had of visiting my home after-school because there was always "fun stuff to do there". The TV tyrant’s home wasn't so bad after all!

Now where did I put that TV Guide? I must check what time EastEnders is on. I never said I denied myself my favourite soap opera!


Published in the Express Newspaper

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