Should Students Be Allowed to Watch TV on School Nights?

Television is as much a part of everyday life as peanut butter and texting. According to a USA Today poll, 5 million homes no longer have access to traditional TV stations, including cable services 1. But that still leaves many families with the invasive presence of TV. Child development researchers say, the more TV watched, the worse students perform academically. While many families have banned TV totally on school nights, many others struggle to establish a middle ground with students. Families with students can tame the TV beast by making use of this household staple to augment learning and motivate youngsters to earn TV time through finished homework and other agreed-upon activities.

Setting the Stage

Create basic family rules for TV watching on school nights that keep TV use to appropriate parameters. And keep in mind that what may be appropriate one night may be entirely wrong the next. One vital facet of setting a student up for successful TV time is for her to understand that some evenings there may be none at all -- it depends on the evening's most important goals, which may shift daily. In all regards, school-night TV can best be kept to periods less than two hours in total. One hour is even better. Some families like students to have a study break by allowing an hour of free TV time when they get home from school. Then it's shut off, and other activities -- including homework -- commence. Whatever the rules you come up with, apply them consistently.

TV for Educational Purposes

There are instances when one or more TV programs may contribute to a homework assignment or special interest your child has. For instance, he's learning about World War I, and the History channel is hosting a miniseries on the "War to end all wars." Or he's showing real interest in becoming a veterinarian and lives for Nova segments on wildlife. Should using TV on school nights for educational purposes be important to your family, review show guides for any appropriate shows weekly. Post a schedule on the fridge of any show that appears like a fit, and monitor your student's on-task behavior over the course of the program.

TV for Entertainment

If your student loves TV as an entertainment source -- a time to unwind from a rough-and-tumble day at school -- it's often best timed for an hour right after school. Just be sensitive to how your child optimally works. If free TV time for entertainment purposes only is part of the family school night TV watching, monitor what your kids are watching and for how long.

TV as a Reward

Carefully completed homework can be traded in for an hour of TV watching. So also could an hour of hiking or mowing the back yard. Parents have an opportunity to guide kids into healthy, active pursuits after school with TV as the carrot. Likewise, for poor choices on your youngster's part, TV may be put on hold for the day. However, make sure that this rule has been set up prior to imposing it; nothing upsets kids more than the application of a seemingly arbitrary consequence. The rule of thumb is, if using TV as a reward for well-done homework or other desired activities does indeed motivate your student to effectively complete the action, then continue using it as an encourager.