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Research on the effects of television is persuasive. Americans average more than 4 hours of TV viewing per day, or two full months a year, and the tube is on in the average household for 7 hours and 40 minutes a day. Forty percent of Americans say they “always” or “often” watch TV while eating dinner, and many family members watch different programs in separate rooms. Meanwhile 73% of teens think their parents don’t spend enough time with them.

American children spend more time in front of the TV each year than they do in school, and the negative impact is striking. Several studies have found that children who watch more TV score consistently lower on reading proficiency tests compared with children who watch very little. There are also clear connections between television viewing and violence, obesity and many other health risks that come with a sedentary lifestyle.

To Think About …

Since television has a powerful influence on our values and behavior, it’s always appropriate to ask ourselves questions about what we and our children are learning from it. If you’ve ever wished you could find more time to spend with your family–or to pursue any number of other healthy endeavors–this is a great place to start looking.

Maybe you’ve already taken steps to control the TV in your household, or maybe you need to take another look at your family’s viewing habits. You might try a week with the TV off, or designate one day each week for no TV. Your kids might complain, so be ready with some other fun ideas for them–like games, music, reading, or hiking–and make sure you join them for some activities. Change is never easy, but this may be one difficult choice we need to make to protect what’s most important to us.

ACTION POINTS for Committed Fathers

  1. Make clear goals and rules about TV viewing (e.g., no TVs in bedrooms; keeping the TV off during meals, on weeknights, before school; or setting time-based limits). Consider moving your TVs to less prominent locations.
  2. Make sure your kids have access to lots of good, interesting books. Take them to the library often, and read with them often.
  3. Consider canceling your cable subscription and discuss more constructive ways to spend the money (books, bikes, sports equipment, etc.).
  4. When kids say they’re bored, don’t worry. Boredom passes and often leads to creativity.
  5. Find out more about the effects of TV on your family–and some steps you can take–at