We all know that TV should be limited, but in today’s rushed society, sometimes TV is the only option when working moms need a moment to just catch up on dinner or chores or admin! We are all guilty of using the television to our advantage…plonk the kids in front of the television and you may have a few minutes of peace to tick an item on your “to do” list – whatever it may be!
In my profession, I have often posed the question *”How much TV should my child be watching”* and because in principle I try not to be too prescriptive I find this a difficult question to answer! It depends so much on your lifestyle (whether you are a single, working mom or a stay at home parenting team for instance), it also depends on the time of day your child is watching TV (e.g. in the mornings before school or before bedtime at night). It also depends on the type of child you have (a couch potato versus an active little bunny!)
I think to answer this question diplomatically we need to look at the pros and cons of TV watching! TV can be beneficial! There are lovely educational programs which can help teach amazing life skills such as sharing, basic concepts such as 1,2,3 or a,b,c etc. There are programs which spark a child’s interest in science, cooking, animals etc. Some programs can help encourage better eating habits or better toileting or table manners! Sharing a common interest in a television program may even help your child socially at school, especially as they get older! For instance, if all the children are playing a Tinkerbell game and your little one has never seen this on television, she may be at a loss for how to participate in the game! So I do think that NO television whatsoever is a bit extreme!
Televisions have an uncanny way of stealing more and more of your child’s play time! When your child is watching television he is missing out on time playing. Playing is your child’s form of “work” and is vital for developing foundational skills needed for more advanced academic skills later on! While watching television can be educational – much of what can be learnt through educational programs can be learnt by more whole body learning experiences in more traditional play! Watching television is a very passive task. Your little one is usually propped up in a supported sitting position (or lying down), in this position core muscles do not build up strength and endurance. Children are not having to actively concentrate while watching television as it provides a rapidly changing visual stimulus. Many parents will say, ‘but my child can concentrate- he can watch a movie from start to finish with no interruption!’ Concentrating on a teacher in a classroom or on homework is very different to concentrating on a television program and cannot really be compared! Attention and concentration are learnt skills which need to be practiced and refined, if they haven’t had the opportunity to build this ability at home then chances are they are going to struggle to concentrate at school.
Watching TV doesn’t require active participation, demand stamina, endurance and frustration tolerance. These are all skills needed to encourage a child to keep trying in a task even if it is challenging. TV provides an immediate sense of achievement and reward for very little effort! Children who are used to watching television or playing on iPads etc. may not be motivated to persevere through tough tasks such as learning to write!
Some children use television time to zone out, recharge their batteries a bit in today’s rushed society of extra murals and busy social lives. A short period of TV after school before homework may be just what your little one needs to recharge?! The TV can be used as a great motivator! It can be used as a special treat to reward positive behaviour e.g. for tidying a messy room or remembering to feed the cat!
What happens in my house you ask? I hardly ever switch the TV on, I love the quiet (for obvious reasons!). My dear hubby, on the other hand, likes the background noise TV provides! Watching for him is calming and relaxing! So when mom is around, nobody even asks for TV, but when dad is around they get to indulge in some TV time which is a special treat! On average, my girls watch less than an hour of TV a day. Now with our busy extramural schedule, there are days when we don’t watch at all! Weekends are a different story and they can watch a movie on Saturday or Sunday or both!!!!! Somewhere between me and my hubby, my girls get a healthy balance of TV watching…I think!!
How much TV do you allow your little ones to watch? Do you monitor what they watch? What are they not allowed to watch and why? Share your thoughts with the other Groovy Adventurer moms out there!
I’ll end off with what I try and teach my girls-MODERATION! Too much of a good thing can be bad!!!
Happy TV watching….or not!