Did you know that the average child watches TV for a similar amount of time that the average adult spends at their full time job? That’s a lot of TV! And with advancements in online streaming, kids can now access everything from the latest in children’s reality television through to the classic Warner Bros shows (click here to see some of the programs). Naturally, some parents might be concerned about just what their kids should be watching. Here are some tips to help you make an informed decision.
Life Lessons are Important
Most children respond positively to television programs that present a social or intellectual lesson. In young children, social lessons such as cooperation, sharing or manners are successfully communicated through television programs. In older children, intellectual lessons such as problem solving, negotiation or conflict management can be taught effectively when presented through a narrative. The impact of these lessons is most beneficial if followed up by discussion, so watch the show with your child and use the storyline to start a conversation about the issue or lesson.
Encourages Other Activities
Television can greatly influence a child’s behaviour. Children are more likely to try out a new hobby or skill they’ve seen in explored or explained in a television program. Programs that encourage arts, music or physical activity can drive children to take these hobbies up in the real world. Similarly, programs that explore history and science can inspire children to pursue their own research on the topic. Consider the programs your child watches and the type of follow-up activities that they could encourage.
Avoid Inferior Educational Programs
Research has shown that some educational programs can actually hinder learning in very small children. Avoid programs with little dialogue that feature short, fast moving, disjointed scenes or images – programs that are solely designed to increase vocabulary, for example. Children learn more from television programs that have characters interacting through dialogue and longer scenes that contribute to an overarching narrative.
Skip the News
It might sound like a great idea to help your child grow in their awareness of world issues, however watching the news at a young age can actually have detrimental affects on children. Children under the ager of 12 who see reports of crime, violence or natural disaster often suffer from higher levels of anxiety and sleeping troubles. The research indicates that these children worry that what they’ve seen on the news might happen to them or to their family members. Until your child is old enough to put the information into context, it might be a good idea to skip the news.
The average child will see over 20,000 television commercials each year, many of which are directly targeted at children through catchy jingles, fun imagery and young language. This is alarming when you consider that children under the age of five can’t discern between the television show and the advertisements. It also takes until early adolescence for children to really understand the connection between advertisements and consumerism (the act of buying a product or service). Consider how you can access television programs in a way that reduces your child’s exposure to advertising – public broadcasting networks, online streaming sites and DVDs are usually free of commercial advertisements.
Of course, every child is unique and will respond differently to television programs. You know your child better than anyone – spend some time with them watching the shows they normally watch. This will give you the best insight into the types of shows that your child responds most positively to.
Do you place limits on what your child watches? How do you determine what is suitable and what is not suitable?
Share your thoughts in the comments section below.