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Is Your Family Watching Too Much TV? (You're Not Alone!)

Posted by Annita Wozniak

A Nielsen Co. reports kids are watching more television than ever and television viewing for children ages 2-11 is the highest since 1995. Kids ages 6-11 watch 28 hours a week with about 4.5 hours on DVD. And worse, kids age 2-5 are watching 32 hours yes, that’s even more than the 6-11 year-olds, presumably because they’re not in school.

I’m not surprised about the Nielsen numbers.

About a decade ago, there was a big push for educational television that could capture the infant and toddler population. Yes, really. Videos used the colors black, white and red since research showed those colors caught the attention of infant brains. Yes, TV for babies! I guess the thought was that if kids were watching more TV then they should be watching better quality TV.

I admit it is much more work to engage my kids in a board game or a walk to the park than it is to turn on the tube. I don’t initiate interactive time at home unless it involves helping me keep the house running. This seems to be a Momism we aren’t so hot at playing, but we are great at organizing and correcting! I cite lots of excuses for my kids TV viewing habits like:

  • My kids time is already too structured and they need down time.
  • My classic educational excuse of only watching public television or shows that are respectful of adults and language.
  • I honestly would wrestle someone for the rights to alleviate my parental sleep deprivation with an hour of mindless television when the kids wake me at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning.

So where are the statistics on TV watching with a parent. Dad loves racing our oldest daughter to the remote. The stress of his job and I guess the stress of her growing up job allows him to define TV watching as an activity affording the necessary together time for dad and daughter who have so little time together to explore interests and opinions of each other as they talk about the show.

Given the rise of childhood obesity, declining educational standards and the rates of health problems linked to an inactive lifestyle, I can see why the media jumps on statistics like the 30 odd hours of couch potato madness. But, until TVs are powered by a family of viewers walking uphill on treadmills, I think we are going to have some sedentary TV watching going on for a long time across America.

But there is hope, and I think we just have to be willing to listen. In fact, this frontline report from my three kids is a great example: We went out to dinner and then drove to the theatre (yes, sort of like inconvenient and expensive television) only find that the movie we wanted to see had started a half hour earlier than we thought. As we drove away the kids spotted the local bowling alley and shouted out, “Lets go bowling!”

Dad and I looked at each other and made no argument. The kids chose something active and they were all in agreement. No sibling rivalry! Everyone was happy! Non-violent, brain engaging, physical stress relief for parents and kids! And I got out of doing the laundry!


About Annita Wozniak

Annita Wozniak grew up in a large, imperfect family in the Midwest. "As adults we have the power to build children up or tear them down," she says about the challenges of being a responsible parent, "and we never know when what we say is going to be a defining moment in a child's life." Woz is a writer and child-grower living in the Midwest with her husband and their three inspirational children. She is always learning. You can visit her website at

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