Brad stopped by his friend Steve’s house to drop off some tools he’d borrowed and to enjoy a brief visit. One of Steve’s kids was watching baseball in the kitchen. So they grabbed their coffee and moved into the family room—only to find Steve’s wife was watching a loud sitcom with their daughter. Finally, they retreated to the basement where Steve quickly turned off the NFL classics he had been watching on the big screen TV.
“I can’t believe how television dominates Steve’s home,” Brad told his wife, Cheryl, when he got home.
“Look around,” she laughed, “we’re in exactly the same boat. “It’s easy to see clearly when something’s happening to someone else.”
“Family meeting?” Brad ventured. “We’ve got to work to limit screen time—for all of us.”
“You bet,” Cheryl said. “You know we can do better than this.”
Here are some ways Brad and Cheryl’s family learned how to escape the TV trap and limit screen time:
Remember your parental responsibility to help your kids manage their media exposure.Remember your parental responsibility to help your kids manage their media exposure. Guidelines that are clear and reasonable help everyone. When we add up how much screen time (TV, computer, video games, phones) our children log, the statistics are startling. The same applies to the parents.
Reinstitute the family dinner. Move away from random evenings at home. Begin by dining together, without media, and set the tone for direct communication as a family. This adds a purposeful element to family life. When dinner together isn’t optional, it sets the trajectory for the balance of the evening.
Everyone picks one show for the family to watch together. Instead of banning TV, make it a family activity. By the way, that’s not one show per person, per night but one show per person, per week. After the chosen show, turn the TV off and spend 15 minutes talking about it.
Institute a “Family Homework Hour”. Everyone has paperwork to do – if only reading a book or the paper. Why not do it together? Gather around the dining table, help each other out, and make learning a family experience and a priority. Add snacks and an open spirit of cooperation. Concentration is a good discipline, but isolation isn’t necessary.
Schedule a “Family Game Night”. Remember Monopoly? Scrabble? Go Fish? There are many activities that can break the monotony of the flickering TV screen. The bonus is better family communication. Remember: Developing a family first culture requires planning and commitment.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle Up as a family and talk about television. Ask these questions: “What does TV do to bring us together as a family?” and “What do we enjoy doing together here at home?”