The average American spends 4 hours a day watching television. Most families have at least 2 television sets in the house, and 56% of Americans pay for cable.
Only a shocking 3.5 minutes a week is spent in meaningful conversation with our children. What does all this mean? It means, most Americans can tell you about Snooky and who was kicked out of the Big Brother house. Yet, they may not be able to say who ate lunch with their child.
Kids are influenced first and foremost by their parents. Parents are the first to shape their character, values, and morels. If parents are watching 4 hours of television a day, they aren’t spending real time with their kids. What do children see on the television? According to the Parents TV website:
Kids watch 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence by the time they leave elementary school. Overall violence has increased from 1998 -2000 during the so called family hour. The statistics on Parents TV are mainly on regular television channels and does not mention cable. Violence is not the only thing being exposed to our children.
Statistics on sex can be obtained from the I Care Coalition. They found 75% of primetime shows, in the 1999-2000 season, included sexual content. The average American teen will view nearly 14,000 sexual references a year. Soap operas mention premarital sex a total of 2 or 3 times an hour. How does this affect our children? When asked to rank where teens received their information about sex, they ranked TV as their top source. In the make believe world of TV, sex and violence are the main course. Very rarely do they show the consequences of violent and sexual behavior in the real world.
What is happening to our youth today? According to the Chronicle, 30% are dropping out of High School. They are also having sex, and doing drugs. According to Teen Help, 48% of High School students polled have used alcohol in the last 30 days, 19.9 % have used marijuana.
What does this have to do with television. If we are not engaging our children in quality time, then they will look else ware for guidance. The first line of defense from these statistics is family time. Spending quality time with our children teaches them many things. They learn that they are valued, that they are important, and that parents can be trusted. Quality time can be accomplished in many ways , but it can not be done at the same time you are watching television. If your kids are older remember, it is never too late to start.
Quality time is defined by the Free Dictionary as dedicating yourself to a person or activity. You are not focused on or dedicated to your children at the same time you are watching television. Most people have difficulty focusing their attention on more than one thing at a time. If you can do it, it is still not your full, undivided attention.
1. Have meals as a family.
One of the easiest, and most important ways to have quality time is through a family meal. Sit down at the table, eat together and talk. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University has actually researched the importance of family dinners. It’s results are striking. If you are looking for the easiest way to connect with your children, this is it. According to its study The Importance of Family Dinners IV :
“Frequent family dining is associated with lower rates of teen smoking, drinking, illegal drug use and prescription drug abuse.”
The study shows that teens who do not have frequent meals as a family are 3 1/2 times more likely to have used an illegal drug ( not marijuana). That number is drastic when you realize having dinner as a family is what made the difference.
Family meals do not need to be fancy affairs. Make something quick, simple and healthy. There’s nothing easier than Spaghetti with a side salad and fresh fruit. Turn the television off and sit down to eat. As you sit there, talk to your children. Ask them questions that require more than a one word answer. “Who sat with you at lunch? ” “Who did you play with at recess?” My children’s favorite is, “Who got in trouble at school today?”. On days they aren’t wanting to talk, this gets them going. If your kids are older try different questions. Talk about their interests, their friends, anything that will get the conversation started.
2. Family Game Night.
I love family game night. As parents we spent a lot of time disciplining our kids and just being adults. Games allow use to loosen up, and relive some of our youth. We get to be silly and bond with our kids in a different way. Choose a variety of games. Board games, card games, sports, and even video games can make good choices. Just as long as every one can play.
3. Exercise with your kids.
No groaning. I need it, you need it, and our kids need it. You don’t have to join a gym. Once there everyone separates into different directions. I’m talking about simpler ways that will allow for some rich quality time. What’s better than bonding through sweat. Go for a walk. Ride bikes through the neighborhood. Go for an easy hike through a local park. Go for a swim, or shoot some hoops. If you’r really brave have a hula hoop contest. Just get moving. Obesity is an epidemic in America. Childhood obesity is on the rise, as is illnesses that were once only seen in adults. Regular exercise with our children not only brings us together, but it also makes us healthier.
4. Read to your children.
Some of my fondest memories as a child is my parents reading to me. Reading to your children gives them a stronger relationship with language and will help them to be better readers. Exposing them to the written word, and to books at an early age will give them a strong foundation for later learning. When you read to a child, they usually sit very close to you. It is a very sweet, and loving time. Again, it is a time of bonding. Read to your child every day. As they become older, have them read to you.
5. Sign your child up for a sport.
This requires a lot of time, effort, and sometimes money on the part of the parents. It also allows for a different kind of bonding. This requires you to be an active figure in your child’s life. It gives you the chance to see them interact with their peers. It also teaches life lessons. They learn how it feels to fail and to succeed. As parents, you will be there to guide them through the ups and downs of sports. Of course, it also teaches them how to be a team player and about sportsmanship. As you take your child to practice, talk to the players, the parents, and the coaches. Be an active person, don’t just sit on the sidelines and read a book. It is important to show that you are interested in the team and the part your child plays.
Quality time takes many forms and can include many things. The point is to be an engaged part of your child’s life. Cable television is costly, and becomes a fallback. It’s just easier to turn the TV on ,then to play with your children. Especially after a long day at work.
I challenge you. Take one week and turn the TV off. Read to your children, play a game, go for a walk, have dinner together. Become an influencer in their lives. Take time to find out how really fascinating your children are. You will be too busy having fun to watch cable, so go ahead and cancel. It could change your life. I guarantee you, it will change theirs. Your mother was right, they are young for only a short time, enjoy it while its here.
If the reasons I have given are not enough for you to cancel cable, and spend time with your kids. Then think of all the money you will save.
http://www.casacolumbia.org/templates/Home.aspx?articleid=287&zoneid=32 type The Importance of Family Dinners IV in the search box