How much is too much TV?

Auckland City Harbour News - - YOUR HEALTH -

Hi In­grid. I think this is a ques­tion nearly ev­ery­one can re­late to – and if it’s not TV, it’s screen time in gen­eral.

In 2013, people in the first world spent, on av­er­age, three hours a day in front of the tele­vi­sion. To put this in per­spec­tive, if you watched this amount of TV daily and lived to be 75 years of age you would have spent nine years of your life in front of a tele­vi­sion. Nine years of your en­tire and very pre­cious life.

Doesn’t that seem ex­ces­sive? And not only do people re­port feel­ing tired af­ter watch­ing a screen for ex­tended pe­ri­ods, re­search has clearly shown this oc­curs.

When I am­look­ing to help people make sustained changes to their lives, I first seek to un­der­stand what feel­ings or ex­pe­ri­ences the be­hav­iour they want to change – quite of­ten it is food-re­lated – gives them. It might be ‘‘re­lax­ation’’ or ‘‘to dis­tract my­self from my problems’’ or ‘‘fun’’.

So if all I were to do was sug­gest that your son change some­thing – in this case, time spent in front of the TV – and I didn’t find out what gives him the feel­ing he is seek­ing from the screen, and help him to find an­other way to ob­tain that, then he would most likely re­turn to this orig­i­nal be­hav­iour.

If you feel com­fort­able ex­plore with him why he watches so much TV, is he bored, try­ing to zone out, over­whelmed with school and so on? Help him to iden­tify why he is drawn to TV in or­der to help him find an­other ac­tiv­ity to re­place it with.

Some of us are so un­aware of how much time we spend in front of screens that it can help to keep a di­ary for a week to track your view­ing habits, so this may be a good op­tion to try with him.

Plac­ing a limit on how much TV he watches is also a good idea. Hi Marike. Firstly, I must ad­mit I don’t be­lieve in ‘‘re­ward­ing’’ with food full stop, even if it is with nour­ish­ing op­tions. I have seen first hand how adults have in­grained ‘‘treat foods’’ within their psy­chol­ogy.

It never ceases to amaze me how people can ac­tu­ally con­sider ‘‘treat foods’’ a treat – it doesn’t ‘‘treat’’ your body well at all! Most of them are high in sugar, poor qual­ity fats and salts.

When you use food as a re­ward it en­cour­ages chil­dren to as­so­ciate food with non-phys­i­o­log­i­cal re­quire­ments. If you want to ‘‘re­ward’’ your chil­dren I be­lieve it’s much bet­ter to do so by spend­ing time with them, doing an ac­tiv­ity, read­ing a book to­gether and so on.

Sim­ply pro­vid­ing your chil­dren with nour­ish­ing op­tions – hav­ing nutri­tious snack op­tions on hand for when they are hun­gry, for ex­am­ple, is very im­por­tant. Try keep­ing bliss balls made from nuts, seeds, and a small amount of fruit in the freezer ready to go.

It is es­ti­mated we spent up to nine years of our lives watch­ing tele­vi­sion.

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