TV and Child Development (or How to Minimize Kids’ TV Viewing)
When Papa Sez and I started our family, we agreed to not have a television set especially when the baby arrives. Having no TV set in the house to tempt kids and adults alike will make it easier for us to fully impose the NO TV WATCHING rule, we thought. Back then, we were convinced that watching TV has a negative impact on child development. Besides, there are so many better things to do than sitting in front of the television such as playing and reading.
However, pressures from closest relatives who cannot watch their favorite television series every time they visit us and from house helpers who easily get bored without TV compelled us to get one. Well, strong in our belief, we managed to keep our child’s TV viewing time to a minimum. Difficult as it may sound, we are successfully doing it by employing the following strategies.
Some alternatives to watching TV
1. Impose limits to TV time. They get more TV time during weekends (up to 2 hours) and less on weekdays (0.5 to 1 hour only). They knew that the TV should be turned off after the allowed duration has lapsed. Now that our school-age kids and our toddler also use the computer, these limits also apply in lieu of television viewing.
2. Minimize temptations. We didn’t avail of cable services so the number of channels is limited to whatever the antennae can capture. This eliminated access to shows/programs attractive to children (and adults). Extended TV time was given to house helpers only when children are asleep.
3. Provide alternatives. We do not want our children to watch TV, but we also do not want them to get bored so we surround them with books, music, art materials, puzzles and other educational toys. Because of these better alternatives, our children really do not use up the above mentioned TV/computer time, especially because the school-age kids also have less time at home.
4. Encourage outside play. Kids are encouraged to run around the yard, inspect plants for insects and spiders, pick flowers, plant and harvest vegetables, water the plants and other outdoor activities that keep them active and away from TV/computer.
5. We make ourselves available. Spending lots of quality time with our growing children has been an important goal in our parenting journey. We teach them, we play with them and if there is a good film, we watch with them. We see to it that interactions among family members abound. This is where having many family members like in our case (or extended family in others) become advantageous as it allows different kinds of interactions (even the quarrels among siblings are times for learning about how to relate to others).
So with this endeavor, we have produced a bunch of happy bookworms and talented kids. They learned to love reading more than watching TV. Don’t get me wrong, they like Disney Princesses, Dora the Explorer, Wonder Pets, Thomas the Train, Sesame Street and other Children’s shows but they know that they’ll be fine without those creations. Family TV viewing, including watching movies also became a way to stimulate interest in certain classic books like those of Charles Dickens and the Newberry winners.
At this time, circumstances have relieved us from the pressures of having a TV set so we don’t have any unit in our home (only a computer). However, the kids still manage to get their dose of TV watching every time they pay a visit to their grand parents’ house and every time they are invited by our neighbor. These all mean, they get less TV time, and more study and play time.
Our belief on the negative impact of too much TV on child development has been recently validated by a report that TV watching is bad for baby’s brain. Apparently, whether the child is watching educational or non-educational programs, watching TV seems to stunt the baby’s brain development. Discrepancy in developmental scores of babies who watched 60 minutes of TV daily and those who weren’t watching may be due to less talking, playing and interactions that are essential in learning and development, as the report suggests.
It is obviously difficult to completely eliminate TV watching in a child especially in today’s world but any minimization effort will be advantageous to a child’s development.
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