For many years The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended that kids under 2 years of age not watch any TV and that those older than 2 watch no more than 2 hours per day. However, these days, the majority of children begin watching television long before their first birthday. While this trend can prevent children from exploring, playing and engaging with others, and as kids get older may lead to obesity, TV in moderation can be a good thing for both kids and parents.
Preschoolers can get help learning the alphabet on public television shows such as Sesame Street, elementary school aged children can learn about wildlife on nature shows such as River Monsters, and parents can keep up with current events by watching national news shows in the evening after dinner. TV can be an excellent source of both education and entertainment.
So how do parents balance the pros and cons of television watching? It is suggested by children’s advocates that educating children and parents on good TV viewing habits can control not only the amount of time children spend watching television, but also the quality of the programming kids are choosing.
The first habit of smart television watching is the most obvious – limiting the number of hours spent in front of the tube. Simple steps such as turning the television off during meals and homework time can significantly reduce the quantity of television the average child views. Additionally, only having television sets in common areas of the home allows parents to monitor TV time more effectively. Finally, parents should limit their television watching hours and read a book or play a game, which will set a positive example for kids to follow.
A second good television watching habit is to watch television as a family. Finding a nonviolent program that is age appropriate for all of the children in the home and making an event of watching the show together as a family will encourage sharing and togetherness. Parents are also given the opportunity to see what their children are watching on TV, assess the appropriateness of programming, and make adjustments as needed. It may even be necessary for parents to preview a program the children are asking for before agreeing to allow the children to watch. Often times the premise of a show seems innocent enough but then the tone or language used throughout the program becomes far too mature for the intended audience.
A last suggestion for smart television watching is for parents to discuss the television shows kids are watching with them. Asking children to explain what a show is about or what they think of a certain character can provide significant insight into what a child is taking away from the show. If the child is unable to clearly articulate the plot of the show it could be the program is too mature for the child. Talking with a child about a situation that a character encounters on a television show can also be a great teaching opportunity for the parent. Kids programming these days addresses many issues common in everyday life such as divorce, bullying, or death and using a television show can be a great basis for a discussion on these topics with a child.
If parents and children are equipped with the knowledge for how to watch television smartly, television can be a great tool for relaxation, fun, and togetherness for the whole family.