Since the early 1950s, gathering around the television has been a way for families to bond and find common ground. Many meals were spent planted in front of the screen, watching classics like “Howdy Doody” and “I Love Lucy.”

Times have changed, and with more streaming and on-demand services taking over for cable television, fewer families are enjoying this great American pastime. With doctor’s recommended limiting screen time for young children and teens, parents are cautious about how much television they allow their children to watch.

Although sitting in front of a screen for hours on end can lead to tired eyes and mindless conversation, watching a television show or two as a family can have some positive effects as well.

Not only does it give families a chance to talk about something, they both enjoy- like the latest plot twist on your favorite show- it also encourages closeness between household members. Instead of going off into separate rooms and burying themselves in tablets or cell phones, families are sitting next to each other on the couch and conversing over what they’re watching together.

Young children can learn a lot from educational cartoons and television shows that encourage kindness, responsibility, and friendship. Older tweens and teens might prefer a reality show, comedy, or crime show- all of which can lead to positive and constructive conversations between them and their parents.

Shows with extreme violence, gore, and sexual situations should be avoided as their developing brains are easily influenced by outside factors. Choose shows with ratings below PG-13 to ensure younger kids aren’t exposed to unnecessary situations.

Although eating around the television is no longer encouraged as it was back in the age of “TV dinners,” snacking on a bowl of popcorn or another healthy snack can connect family members even more and add positively to the viewing experience.

Choosing a show that all members of the household are entertained by may seem like a challenge. Some suggestions that appeal to a variety of age groups include competition reality shows, sitcoms, and animated cartoons geared towards an older audience.

Watching TV together can significantly benefit a family’s dynamic and continue the tradition of this American pastime.