How much is too much TV?
My teenage son literally spends his life in front of the TV, what impact is this having on his energy? He often complains about being tired. Thanks, Ingrid.
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 am looking 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. What are some healthy treats I can given my children to reward them? With thanks – Marike
Hi Marike. Firstly, I must admit I don’t believe in ‘‘rewarding’’ with Email your questions for Dr Libby to email@example.com. Please note, only a selection of questions can be answered. 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.