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Six easy ways to cut back on TV time

Replace channel surfing with overt diversions, and your kids won't even miss the tube.

By Rob Baedeker

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Turn on the real fun

More than one day a week. That's how much time most U.S. kids spend in front of a television. According to a 2009 Nielsen report, the average American child, ages 2 to 5, watches TV at least 32 hours a week; kids ages 7 to 11, more than 28 hours. If you'd like to prevent your children from becoming couch spuds, here are six simple strategies for tuning out TV and turning them on to other interests.

Rob Baedeker is a writer living in Berkeley, Calif. He is the coauthor, with the Kasper Hauser comedy group, of SkyMaul: Weddings of the Times and Obama's BlackBerry.

Comments from readers

"I've noticed frequently that parents are hoping kids stop watching TV, and do other activities, in years of research however, I've found that TV, even adult programs, are very good for children's learning. Not to mention children who have parents who restrict them from television, screens and sugar are 80% more likely to rebel against their parents as teenagers. Don't be fooled by the nice little kid, a child can turn into a teen pretty early these days. People also are against video games, which is also very odd. hand-eye coordination is necessary of day as an adult, and you will have a much easier life with your hand-eye coordination intact. The best way of improving this skill, is by playing video games! the PS3 and Xbox are the best, while the wii is comparable to doing nothing. The wii requires almost no exercise, it's better for them to relax, and be seated, not moving. That is a simple way to practice zen. I have 8 sons, currently, a variety of ages, by allowing them television, for a half hour, before they begin homework, is a stress reducer. It helps them think. then, when they finish homework, and studies, allow them many screens! let them relax, and stay ahead in school rather than waiting for them to turn on you. none of my kids, some are now adults, ever rebelled, that's be they respected me as a parent, and loved me as a mom. Most likely, your child respects you CURRENT authority, and loves you like a parent. allow them to have fun, they're kids, and they will be better in school, in other activities and sports, and your family will be closer, because you do not treat your children like dogs. "
"We do not have a TV either. We have not had one for 6 years, my son is 8 years old and he is allowed to have lesurely 'screentime' (which is usually a movie, online TV show for children, or a computergame) for half an hour a day. I find that works very well and he most often administers it himself. That way he gets lots of time to do other things. He does not seem to miss having a TV and he hardly never says he is bored, since he always have lots of his own games and projects going on. A friend of mine decided to also get rid of the TV recently and she found that her kids very quickly found other things to do and only missed a few favorite shows, which they could then watch with friends or online."
"I think these are all good points. I would love for my child to have more time outside and away from the TV and computer, however, then reality sets in... I'm a single mother of a 1st grader who sits two hours a day in traffice, works, pays bills, cleans, cooks, does laundry, helps with homework, gets baths, etc... I ask when, except for some times on the weekend do we actually GET to take our kids to the park or let them play outside with supervision... I don't know. Sometimes, they just HAVE to be inside and watching one program a day sure doesn't allow me to do the things I need to do handle our lives..I realize it might get better has he gets older, but I don't know.. I guess winning the lottery would allow me the time to take my child for lovely walks in the woods or on the beach or let him play at the park each afternoon. Other than that, let's try to think up real world solutions! I've been trying for 6 years and I struggle with it every day..."
"We have one easy solution for keeping the kids from spending hours watching tv- we don't have it! The kids get a movie if they have a particularly good few days, but it is always a treat. My son also gets rewarded with video games (once a week or so) and we stick to the Nintendo Wii because we feel like he's at least having to move around and not just sit on the couch. And while we may not be able to stay current on any adult shows (or have a quick fix sitter for the kids), the payoff of seeing the kids' imaginations run wild without the pollution of mindless media makes up for it a hundred times over :)"