It is helpful to realize that TV shows filmed with one camera are less addictive (due to the lack of a “flicker” every few second from one angle to another.)
Repetitive viewing of a favorite DVD does not enhance a TV habit. All children love repetition. It allows them to make a story or movie “their own”. Rather than mindless viewing, they tend to memorize their favorite parts. This allows them to act out the story during play time, thus enhancing their creativity.
Use music instead of the TV for background noise. You can teach your child to be discriminating by requiring TV viewing to be exclusive activity. If a show is not interesting enough to hold their full attention, it’s not worth watching.
Promote communication skills by turning off the TV during meals. Although in-depth discussions are not realistic for little children, they can answer a daily question, such as “What was the best and worst thing that happened today?” or “What is your favorite color?” You can even quiz people afterwards to see if they were listening to each other’s answers.
A recorder that the children are allowed to operate is a good alternative to free access to the TV. There are many quality music for children as well as audiobooks. You can also make your own recordings of favorite books or send talking letters to relatives.
Schedule family activities that are not centered on the TV. Playing board games, doing puzzles, reading aloud, building models, making crafts, or collecting something are all interactive- not passive. Your child may always remember when you read him Winnie the Pooh or stayed up half the night playing Monopoly, but it is unlikely he will remember the night you watched a rented movie together.
Remember that ultimately children learn by what you do, not what you say. If you use TV to unwind, have it on all the time, use it as your only form of entertainment, and fail to discriminate quality from quantity viewing; your children will likely do the same- regardless of your attempts to control their TV habits.
Adapted from Encouragement a publication by Angela DiCicco and Gail Signor