School holidays are looming and with it the dilemma on how to entertain your child. Thoughts of children slouching around in front of the TV all day whilst parents are still at work dredges up mixed feelings of relief and trepidation:
At least they’ll be entertained and kept out of mischief but we know that too much TV cannot be a good thing.
The first 2 years of life are considered a critical time for brain development. TV and other electronic media can get in the way of exploring, playing, and interacting with parents and others, which encourages learning and healthy physical and social development.
As kids get older, too much screen time can interfere with activities such as being physically active, reading, doing homework, playing with friends, and spending time with family.
But TV does not have to be the evil electronic monster turning our babies, toddlers and children into a generation of square-eyed ‘blobs’. Research has shown that not only is television (with controlled and limited screen time) good for kids – it actually makes them smarter.
Here is how:
1. Watch TV with your child
- Watching TV with your kids allows parents to get a check the content of what they are viewing and allows parents to provide input, guidance and perspective on what they are seeing.
- Children who watch educational programs in the company of caregivers actually learn more from the material than children who view without co-viewing caregivers. Why? Children pay more attention to the TV, and view the material as more important, when a parent/caregiver watches with them.
2. TV can help kids learn about a variety of subjects
- If there’s a subject your child enjoys, more likely than not, there is a TV show, movie, or educational DVD or You-Tube clip that explores the subject in detail. You might be even be surprised to find out how many kids watch and love educational shows aimed at adults – “Masterchef” and “Who wants to be a Millionaire come to mind.
- Most children are not able to visit the rain forest or see a giraffe in the wild, but many have seen these things on TV.
3. TV can help build analytical thinking skills
- Asking questions such as “What do you think will happen next?” “Who did it?” “What will the result be?” “What could that character have done instead?” will help children learn to think, problem solve, and predict, making TV viewing a more active experience
- Compare and contrast: Develop these skills by comparing characters in movies, sitcoms, or even reality shows.
4. Use TV and movies to motivate children to read books.
- Many of the movies and TV programmes are based on books. Encourage children to read the book or read the book with younger children and then allow them to see the movie. Discussions comparing and contrasting the book and the movie will facilitate language development and thinking skills.
5. Discuss Advertising
- Young children often do not understand the difference between the TV programme and an advert. It is import to discuss the role and purpose of advertising. Thinking skills and creative skills can be developed in older children by discussing and analyzing the methods that advertisers use.
6. Good role models and examples on TV can positively influence children & teach social skills.
- Children are influenced by people they see on television, especially other kids. Obviously, this can have a negative result, but it can be positive too. As kids see their favorite characters making positive choices, they will be influenced in a good way. Parents can also point out positive traits that characters display and thereby spark valuable family discussions
- When children of the same age all watch the same programme, they talk and recreate parts of that programme in their play. This is important for group inclusion as well as the development of social narratives.
7. TV shows can inspire kids to try new activities and engage in learning.
- Children enjoy learning activities more if it involves their favorite characters. TV characters can be very motivating especially for younger children.
We live in a rich media environment with so much choice and whilst the web is very open, it is much easier to control what is suitable for children to watch on TV and how much time they spend watching.
So, sure, you may want to throw up when you hear the theme song to Barney, Dora Explorer or Ben 10 yet again!
But maybe you don’t need to feel so guilty about it. 😳