Many children nowadays are undoubtedly watching too much television. While it can be entertaining for kids, it may be depriving young kids of other opportunities to learn like exploration, active play, or interaction. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, two-thirds of infants and toddlers spend an average of two hours a day watching television. Children 6 years old and younger, also watch an average of 2 hours of screen media including videos and DVDs. Older kids and teens spend almost 4 hours a day watching television, and an additional two hours is spent in front of a computer, or playing video games.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids under 2 years old should not watch television yet. For children older than 2 years old, an hour or two of quality programming each day is allowed. With these recommendations, there is no doubt that children these days, are getting more viewing time than what is recommended.
Watching television is not at all bad, and kids can learn many things by watching educational shows. A child may learn to associate things better, or he may be familiar with shapes, colors, numbers, animals, and many other everyday things. While this can be good, it has to be in moderation because too much viewing time is still detrimental.
Many experts have associated excessive viewing time to obesity. According to studies, children who regularly watch television for 4 hours a day are more likely to be overweight. To add to that, children who view violence on TV are more likely to display aggressive behavior. They may also view the world as a scary place, and they may have nightmares or sleep problems. Through TV, children may also wrongly perceive risky behaviors like smoking and drinking, as something acceptable.
Although parents can be guided by TV ratings, or technology which blocks programs not suitable for kids, parents still need to monitor the shows, and to limit the number of viewing hours for children. It may be best that you keep the TV out of bedrooms. Place the TV in an area in your house, where children can do other activities. Put your child’s books, toys, puzzles, coloring materials, and other entertaining materials in the TV room. This will encourage kids to do other things rather than watching TV.
It may also be good if you can enforce good habits in your home. Turn off the TV during mealtimes, and when kids are doing their homework. You may also try a weekday ban especially on school days. You may then encourage your kids to do other worthwhile activities like working on crafts, reading, or even playing outside. While you are curtailing viewing time for your kids, it may also be good that you limit your own viewing time.
If you allow TV on weekdays, try to have a family schedule. Choose shows that encourage children to take interest in learning. Shows that support the values of your family may also be good. If your child happens to watch disturbing content from a program, try to take the opportunity to educate your child. You may even tackle sensitive issues when the need arises.
You can also read program reviews ahead of time. If it is possible, preview programs before your kids can watch them. If time constraints are keeping you from doing this, watch for a few minutes and keep on checking from time to time, to ensure that the content is developmentally appropriate.
It may be a struggle to enforce healthy viewing habits in children, especially when they have already gotten used to their own routine. However, it is never too late to try to introduce change, so that detrimental effects can be avoided.
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