Young children and television

As a parent, to what extent should you control your child’s television viewing? Too much television can have a huge impact on children, particularly in terms of program choices, duration, social interaction, physical activity and time spent on homework and chores. But television also has an important role to play as a tool for imparting knowledge and information, and the development of positive viewing habits in your child, can be an important part of their overall learning and education.

Pre-school children:

  •   Devise a workable, weekly plan for television viewing, and try to stick to the plan.
  •   Preschoolers are consumed with learning, and if viewing is restricted to carefully chosen programs, television can serve to be a selective adjunct to a child’s learning.
  •   There is no substitute at this age for hands-on learning, and although television can be a learning tool, it more often than not elicits the child’s passive rather than active participation.
  •   Ideally, finding time to sit with your preschooler, gives you both the opportunity to laugh at programs together, explain, discuss and help them differentiate between cartoons, commercials, real life and fantasy.

Primary aged children:

  •   As a family, agree on daily viewing limits and rather than channel surfing, consult the program guide together, so that both you and your child are aware of ratings and content.
  •   Once the program is over, make sure the set is turned off.
  •   Where possible position the set in full view, rather than in a child’s room where monitoring may be difficult.

When it comes to appropriate viewing for young children, there is no substitute for parental supervision. Family viewing provides an opportunity to monitor and role model healthy viewing habits, reinforce positive messages and learning themes, and discuss any negative aspects posed by advertising or inappropriate program content. Excessive viewing can impact on a child’s social and physical development. Teach your children that they have choices when it comes to television – particularly as regards the ‘off’ button!

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