Taming children’s TV habits

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Whether watching TV turns out to be harmful or rewarding largely depends on both the content of the programs a child sees and the amount of time they spend in front of the TV

In the decades since television came into the home, researches have addressed the question, “What effect does television have on children?” Extensive research on the effects of TV on children indicates that it can be potentially harmful as well as beneficial, depending on many factors.

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On the negative side, there is evidence that portrayals of violence on TV tend to stimulate aggressive behavior. This can be expressed in a child’s pushing, shoving and striking other children. They tend to learn that aggression can be an acceptable way to settle conflicts.

Ample evidence also suggest that young children learn a variety of behavior from television. Take for instance the case of the show, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, when asked by his teachers where he wanted to live, one preschooler replied that he wanted to live in a sewer like the Ninja turtles. The surprised teacher explained that a sewer is where waste from the bathrooms of houses go. It was the boys turn to be surprised. A US magazine likewise reported that policemen found several boys practically living inside the sewer.

On the positive side, however, TV can help stimulate a child’s behavior. For instance, if children watch shows that portray kindness, compassion and generosity, they are more likely to behave in a friendly and caring way. Children will also learn that cooperation is often appreciated, admired and rewarded.

However, whether watching TV turns out to be harmful or rewarding largely depends on both the content of the programs a child sees and the amount of time they are allowed to spend in front of the TV. Therefore, it is a good idea for parents to monitor the content, messages and styles of the programs watched by their children.

In the case of some preschoolers, who still have difficulty separating fantasy from reality, the vividness in some programs tend to make even the fantastic seem quite real and believable.

Given the power of TV, parents should consider ways to control TV time for their children’s long-term benefit.

Most researchers who have studied the subject agree on two suggestions: The first is to help your child be a wise TV consumer. This can be done by going over the listings of TV shows in advance, to select appropriate programs. But the buck should not stop there.

Parents should get involved and watch the programs itself, with their children, especially when the content is likely to raise issues that are confusing or troubling. When they are older, parents should help their children distinguish between worthwhile and trashy shows by explaining or commenting on the program’s content.

The second suggestion is to prevent TV from becoming an addiction. It is important that parents should establish ground rules, such as “No TV” during meals or before homework is done.

It is a good idea for parents to monitor the content, messages and styles of the programs children see

Sadly, I know many parents who allow their children to be fed in front of the TV, justifying that this is the only way they can ensure that their child gets a full meal. Another family no-no is never suggesting for your child to “Go watch TV” whenever you are overwhelmed or in need of some privacy.

Learn to put TV in its place. Introduce alternative wholesome activities to your children, like storytelling, cooking or sports.

It is difficult to imagine a world without television and all other electronic gadgets that are available out there.

Therefore, parents have a fundamental responsibility of monitoring the content and how much screen time a child receives, especially in today’s society when the use of television, computers, and video games is becoming more and more common among young children.

One thing is certain – that TV and electronic gadgets are here to stay, for better or for worse. And children can certainly use our help in learning to relate wisely to the use of these implements and entertainment accessories.

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