Chil­dren’s television ex­po­sure must be lim­ited

The Covington News - - RELIGION -

Ques­tion: I am con­cerned about the im­pact of television in our home. How can we con­trol it with­out re­sort­ing to dic­ta­to­rial rules and reg­u­la­tions?

Dob­son: It seems that we have three ob­jec­tives as par­ents. First, we want to mon­i­tor the qual­ity of the pro­grams our chil­dren watch. Sec­ond, we want to reg­u­late the quan­tity of television they see. Even good pro­grams may have an un­de­sir­able in­flu­ence on the rest of chil­dren’s ac­tiv­i­ties if they spend too much time watch­ing them. Third, we should in­clude the en­tire fam­ily in es­tab­lish­ing a TV pol­icy.

I read about a sys­tem re­cently that is very ef­fec­tive in ac­com­plish­ing all three of th­ese pur­poses. First, it was sug­gested that par­ents sit down with the chil­dren and agree upon a list of ap­proved pro­grams that are ap­pro­pri­ate for each age level. Then type that list (or at least write it clearly) and en­close it in clear plas­tic so it can be re­ferred to through­out the week.

Sec­ond, ei­ther pur­chase or make a roll of tick­ets. Is­sue each child 10 tick­ets per week, and let him or her use them to “buy” the priv­i­lege of watch­ing the pro­grams on the ap­proved list. When the tick­ets are gone, television view­ing is over for that week. This teaches a child to be dis­crim­i­nat­ing about what is watched. A max­i­mum of 10 hours of view­ing per week might be an ap­pro­pri­ate place to start, com­pared with the na­tional av­er­age of 40 to 50 hours per week. That’s far too much, es­pe­cially for an el­e­men­tary school child.

This sys­tem can be mod­i­fied to fit in­di­vid­ual home sit­u­a­tions or cir­cum­stances. If there’s a spe­cial pro­gram that all the chil­dren want to see, such as a fea­ture broad­cast or a hol­i­day pro­gram dur­ing Christ­mas or Thanks­giv­ing, you can is­sue more tick­ets. You might also give ex­tra tick­ets as re­wards for achieve­ment or some other laud­able be­hav­ior.

The real test will oc­cur when par­ents re­veal whether or not they have the courage to put them­selves on that lim­ited sys­tem, too. We of­ten need the same reg­u­la­tions in our view­ing habits!


My 3year-old can be counted on to be­have like a brat when­ever we are in the mall or in a restau­rant. He seems to know I will not pun­ish him there in front of other peo­ple. How should I han­dle this tac­tic?

Dob­son: Let me an­swer you with an il­lus­tra­tion from na­ture. I’m told that a rac­coon can usu­ally kill a dog if he gets him in a lake or river. He will sim­ply pull the hound un­der­wa­ter un­til he drowns. Most other preda­tory an­i­mals pre­fer to do bat­tle on the turf of their own choos­ing.

So do chil­dren. If they’re go­ing to pick a fight with Mom or Dad, they’d rather stage it in a pub­lic place, such as a su­per­mar­ket or in the church foyer. They are smart enough to know that they are “safer” in front of other peo­ple. They will grab candy or speak in dis­re­spect­ful ways that would never be at­tempted at home.

Again, the most suc­cess­ful mil­i­tary gen­er­als are those who sur­prise the en­emy in a ter­rain ad­van­ta­geous to their troops. Pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties rep­re­sent the “high ground” for a ram­bunc­tious preschooler.

You may be one of the par­ents who have fallen into the trap of cre­at­ing “sanc­tu­ar­ies” in which the old rules aren’t en­forced. It is a cer­tainty that your strong-willed son or daugh­ter will no­tice those safe zones and be­have of­fen­sively and dis­re­spect­fully when there. There is some­thing within the tougher child that al­most forces him to “test the lim­its” in sit­u­a­tions where the re­solve of adults is in ques­tion.

There­fore, I rec­om­mend that you lay out the ground rules be­fore you en­ter those pub­lic are­nas, mak­ing it clear that the same rules will ap­ply. Then if he mis­be­haves, re­spond as you would have done at home. His pub­lic be­hav­ior will im­prove dra­mat­i­cally.

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