Turnoff Week 2008

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension

Every day, children ages eight to 18 spend more than six hours watching TV, playing video games or using the computer for recreational purposes. The more time youth spend in front of the screen, the more likely they are to be overweight. Turnoff Week, April 21-27, is an excellent time to start limiting recreational screen time and boosting physical activity and healthier living.

Should you be concerned about excessive TV viewing?  Most child development specialists suggest that you review the “balance” of your child’s daily activities.  Some researchers suggest that preschoolers watch no more than one hour of  TV each day and elementary school children watch no more than two hours daily.

Social scientists have shown that all forms of violent programming may have harmful effects on young viewers.  Children as young as one year old learn behaviors from television.  Often children imitate actions and scripts from TV programs instead of creating their own play.  

Children under the age of six cannot tell the difference between an ad and a show.  The evidence suggests that children younger than six or even 8 years of age do not understand that the purpose of advertising is to sell a product.  While advertising supports TV programming, scientists have found that advertising can cause children to “want” toys or foods that they do not need and that their families can afford.

Parents differ in the ways in which they assess the quality of a program, and you are the best judge of what you consider to be suitable for your child.  What can you do about your family’s viewing habits?  

•    Keep a time chart of your child’s activities including TV viewing, homework and play.  Become balanced.
•    Set a weekly viewing limit.  Let your child choose a number of programs at the beginning of the week.
•    Help your child turn off the TV at certain times like before breakfast or on school nights.
•    Watch TV with your child and discuss that you’re watching.
•    Find appealing non-TV activities for your family.
•    Promote healthy eating habits by resisting junk food advertised on TV.
•    Remember children learn from their parents.  If you watch a lot of TV, chances are your child will also.

Eleanor Summers
Extension Agent
Family & Consumers Sciences