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Don’t Let Your Home Look Like Your Office – The Importance of Your Home Environment


Does your home look more like office every day? Computers in bedrooms? Laptops scattered around the house? Wayward iPods and iPads? What’s happening to our homes in this growing media/digital age of ours? Stopping to consider how we want our homes to look and what kind of environment we want our children to live in can really help our kids’ healthy development.

John Dewey, the renowned educator, used to say, “The environment teaches.” In other words what we put in our surroundings, and what we choose to leave out, speaks volumes. TV in a child’s bedroom lets our five year-old know that we value TV watching but that we are not aware of or we don’t want to heed the advice from experts to keep the TV our of a child’s bedroom. Our children grow up observing our choices closely. They absorb what is in their environments, learning every minute.

Any parent can tell you the advantage of baking the cookies or the bread is not only the treat at the end of the process, but the smells during it. We know our kids are comforted and calmed when dinner is cooking on the stove. And what parent hasn’t experienced their child excited and curious, when the electricity suddenly goes off because of a storm? Now the kids are in a different environment and don’t they just love the adventure of it all and express disappointment when the lights come back on?

Yes, the environment teaches. And nothing impacts our kids and their school learning more negatively than overuse of TV, video games, and computers. Parents can promote wise use of screen technologies by making sure the family home environment supports children’s optimal brain development. These simple actions can make profound positive differences in your children’s academic abilities, in their behavior and attitudes as well. And you can rest easy, knowing you are intentionally creating a home environment that allows for family reflections, communication, and loving connections…all so critically important to nurture in our increasingly distracting digital world.

1. Turn Off the TV When No One is Watching It.

Using the TV as “background noise” is not a good idea for young brains. When children are playing or doing homework near a blaring TV set, they cannot focus attention, process information, or use higher level thinking functions very well. Make it a family rule to turn on the TV only when someone is watching it and then turn if off when the program is finished. You will be helping your child’s learning abilities and modeling a smart way to use TV.

2. Keep Your Child’s Bedroom TV Free.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV in a child’s bedroom. Instead, put in a bookcase or bookshelves, big pillows to recline on to read, and an audio tape recorder, with plenty of story tapes. You will be developing in your child a life-long reading habit that will go far to build school success and your child’s imagination!

3. Make Educational Programs a Family Event.

Once a month, watch an educational TV program or video as a family. Have dessert afterward and discuss the content with your child. You are modeling how TV and video can be used to grow smart brains. Ask your child to think about the show and your family discussion and revisit the ideas in another week. Think time will unveil more interesting ideas to discuss.

4. Set a Few Realistic Rules.

No watching TV until homework is done; nixing violent shows, saying no to texting during dinner or homework; and limiting all screen time to one hour a day or less, are rules that will help your child’s school habits and develop healthy screen habits, as well!

5. Place a Few Comfy Chairs Facing Each Other.

All too often our furniture is placed so that we can look at a screen and not at each other. With care about furniture placement in a few rooms of our house, we have a natural way for parents and kids to talk with each other in a more focused, attentive way. A great place to discuss the recent TV program or movie that the family just saw together.

6. Consider a Family Laptop/Computer.

Instead of buying each of your children a laptop or computer, you can avoid instant access to the Internet by having one in a central area to be shared by all. Your kids learn to take turns and to interact with the people, books, and creative projects in their environment, instead of spending all their time with a screen machine.

Copyright, Gloria DeGaetano, 2010. All rights reserved.

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