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Tips for reducing TV time

Tips for reducing TV time - Enjoying a board game instead of watching television

I’ve just enjoyed five months without a television. Instead of being distracted by the box we spent time outdoors, played board games as a family and were snuggled in bed reading by a sensible hour. It was bliss.

Then the days started to shorten and we sensed just how dark and cold winter is going to be. We decided that life with a TV isn’t all that bad and ordered the satellite that is necessary in our digital TV black spot part of the world.

I spent the week prior to installation thinking about how I was going to stop our family from wasting hours staring at the box.

Through past TV-free periods I’ve learnt that our home is a calmer more loving and creative space without it and I started to dread its return. 

Past strategies for reducing television time, especially for Little Eco, were contemplated.

I’ve tried both prohibition and distraction when trying to reduce TV time

A few years back, I struggled to persuade Little Eco to turn off the TV and get dressed. She refused to budge and after a warning that fell on deaf ears I unplugged the TV, picked it up and hid it in the spare room. The TV stayed hidden for a few weeks and she’s taken my threats to hide the television serious ever since.

We’ve also enjoyed regular enforced screen free days – where screens of any kind, including the computer (aside from paid work) were off limits. I’ve found these screen free moments a nice way to remind ourselves of all the other creative and often more productive ways we could be relaxing.

I’ve also tried distraction – by installing speed bumps to television viewing. I strategically place temping play scenes, like a dolls tea party or craft activity, within meters of the television in the hope they would distract her from turning on the TV.

A favourite speed bump to television viewing - a doll’s house placed smack-bang in front of the television-001

I’ve also tried a not so subtle speed bump – a doll’s house placed smack-bang in front of the television.

The author of ‘Honeycomb Kids: Big picture parenting for a changing world….and to change the world’, Anna Campbell, wisely suggests “an hour for an hour – an hour of contributing for an hour of consuming (TV or computer)”.

The satellite man has been and gone and we’ve had a television for almost a week. Despite my initial concern, the TV has sat mainly ignored. It seems that in our five months without a TV we’ve learnt that’s there’s more to life than watching TV. That said, the pessimist in me is still keeping these strategies for reducing TV time close at hand.  

{Originally published in the Newcastle Herald 1 June 2013}

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