According to Energy Star, a U.S. government program promoting energy efficient products, televisions account for 4% of household electricity usage in the USA – sufficient electrical power to supply the entire population of New York state households for a year!
Until recently an Energy Star ratings scheme didn’t even exist for televisions, but since November 2008 this is in place and you can now make a more informed decision when purchasing a new TV, and ideally select the most environmentally friendly type.
However, regardless of which model of television you have, you can make a significant impact on your electricity usage by watching it less and turning it off (not to stand by mode) more.
All too often, kids and teenagers like to turn the TV on as soon as they come into the house. With some households having a television in nearly every room, lots of children have become accustomed to having the TV as an almost constant background to their activities.
Not only is this a shocking waste of electrical power, but it’s unhealthy for your child for lots of reasons. A TV blaring or murmuring in the background fragments a child’s concentration and feeds frequent negative messages and information into his subconscious. Getting used to this electrical “babysitter” always being on, especially if this happens from a young age, can prevent your child from becoming comfortable with spending quiet time alone.
Plan Your TV Usage
The television is a wonderful invention and there are many educational and beneficial programs that will enhance your children’s understanding of the world around them. To make the most of these benefits, and avoid the negative impact a TV can have on children and on family life, it is essential to plan your TV usage, and teach your children to do the same.
The best way to tackle the problem of the “always on” TV will depend on the age of your children.
TV for Babies and Toddlers
You should never, ever use the television as a babysitter. During their waking day, babies and toddlers need almost constant interaction with humans, and should not be left sitting in front of a television alone for long stretches of time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend TV at all for babies under the age of 2, and for older children the Academy recommends that TV should be restricted to a maximum of 2 hours per day of non-violent, educational programs.
If you do allow your baby or toddler to watch television, you should plan to stay involved, interacting with your child and discussing the program as you watch it together.
TV for School Age Children
School age is when the TV can really come into its own as an educational tool. It’s a good idea to buy a high quality TV paper and plan TV watching as a family, giving priority to programs that will help the children with topics that they are studying at school. Make a rule that the TV is only turned on when there is a planned program to watch. Turning the TV on at random times and channel hopping is no good for anyone!
For school age children it is very important to set rules with regard to how much TV can be watched. An absolute maximum of 2 hours per day is recommended.
Whenever possible, a parent should watch together with the child. This allows you to quickly become aware of any inappropriate programs. Even in programs that you usually think are fine for your kids to watch it is likely that something you would consider inappropriate will crop up from time to time. If you are watching with your child, this gives you a chance to point out items or episodes that you feel don’t fit with your family’s values.
TV for Teenagers
Even if you have tried to instill good TV watching habits in your children from a young age, teenagers generally present unique challenges. It’s natural for kids to challenge the boundaries at this age, and it’s important to allow them to start making some significant decisions for themselves.
If you can avoid allowing televisions in the bedroom, this is half the battle! Encourage your teenagers to talk about what they have seen on television, and allow them to foster their own opinions, while continuing to present your own values in a consistent but not overbearing way.
Good sleep hygiene is very important for teenagers, so the most important rule you should enforce at this age is a strict time cutoff for watching TV during the evening.
Television should be a useful and educational tool in your family, and approaching it from that angle will give you and your family the most benefit, while also preventing the unnecessary wastage of resources that is caused by unthinking “always on” TV usage.