What Steps Can You Take To Limit The Effect Of Television On Your Young Child's Attitudes And Development?
* Make A Television Viewing Plan For Your Family
One of the easiest ways to fall into the "TV trap" is simply through lack of attention. When we don't evaluate and choose TV viewing times the amount of television watched in our houses adds up quickly. Make a viewing schedule for each member of your family and stick to it.
Consider the following issues when drawing up your plan:
- How Much Time Should A Young Child Watch Each Day?
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours a day for children over two years old and no television viewing for children under two. This does not mean that if your one and a half-year-old watches Teletubbies once a week, it will impede her development. It does mean, however, that what your child needs at age two is not television, but exploration and interactive time. So for your child under age two, strictly limit or even better, eliminate TV as part of her daily schedule.
After age two, try to stay within the two-hour limit and ideally under it.
- Choose Appropriate Times
Choose the best times for you and more importantly the best times for your kids. Sometimes a half an hour of watching Barney can be relaxing after an hour outside playing on the swings or a full day in kindergarten. If it will help schedule TV time for right before supper so that you have that half an hour to prepare and set up the meal.
Young children thrive on having a set schedule. If your child knows your limits and you stick to them, you will probably not have a hard time getting him to turn off the TV. (As they get older, however, this becomes harder.)
- Monitor The Quality
Don't let your child wander into the TV room and watch whatever is on. Look at the TV schedule and choose, together with him if he is old enough, which one or two shows he will watch in any one day. Don't assume that because something is in cartoon form, it is appropriate for children. Lots of fighting and violence take place on animated shows.
Try and coordinate the "right shows" with the "right times." If these two do not coordinate, then consider using a educational video at the right times and let your child choose between several appropriate selections.
- Watch TV With Your Child
What? I need TV time to get things done!
I know that might be how you feel, but consider that watching TV with your child can be a fun and relaxing activity for both of you. You also need a break. Television is something you can do with your child that doesn't require work on your part.
Indeed, you can make TV watching a more meaningful experience for your child. Suggest that your child jump each time he hears a number or sing along to the music with him. Co-viewing also gives you an opportunity to discuss with your child what she sees. In this way, you can make TV time interactive and not totally passive.
- Don't Use Television As A Babysitter
Parents tend to use television as a built-in babysitter. Try not to do this. Instead, involve your children in your daily activities so that you do not need the TV as a babysitter. Let your children help you make supper or sort the laundry. (I often let my two-year-old play with a load of laundry while I sort the rest of it nearby.) I'm not denying that sometimes television is needed in a crucial moment. I am suggesting that before you use it in this way, think twice.
- Insist On Appropriate Physical Activity
Don't let your child become a couch potato. Young children need to be running, moving and exploring physically. Let your child play with a ball to exercise his whole body and draw lots of beautiful pictures to improve his fine motor and hand-eye coordination.
Television is one possible way of unwinding from a long day of physical activity. It should never be the first stop.
- Don't Make The Television The Center Of Your Family Life
If possible, keep the television out of the living room or main family room. The location of the television gives your child a message about the importance of the television in their lives.
- Set A Good Example
If the only thing your child sees you doing in your spare time is sitting and watching television, then don't expect him to choose a book. Show your children by personal example that reading books, gardening or working around the home can be as much fun as sitting in front of the television.
- Keep Track Of Your Progress
Write down your child's television schedule and check on a regular basis to see if you are sticking to it. Of course, all schedules need to be broken occasionally. If you find that you are not sticking to the schedule at all, however, then it may be time to reread this article and to once again evaluate your schedule and your TV habits.