Guiding Children's Television Viewing
Guiding children's television viewing is easier said than done. Television is a pervasive medium throughout American society. Here are some interesting facts about young children and television, and guidelines for monitoring its usage.
- A report, Zero to Six: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers, revealed:
- 36 percent of children have a TV in their bedroom.
- Children with TVs in the bedroom watch an average of twenty-two more minutes of TV than children without them.
- 43 percent of parents think that TV helps children learn.
- 77 percent of children can operate a TV by themselves.
- Children with parents who do not make rules about TV viewing watch an average of twenty-nine more minutes of TV per day than children whose parents have such rules.
So, how should we as early childhood professionals advise parents regarding their children's television viewing? Here are some tips:
- Set rules and guidelines early. Just like most habits, habits related to television viewing begin early. Therefore, it's better to develop good habits regarding television viewing early in life rather than have to try and break old habits later in childhood.
- Establish guidelines for children's television viewing. Some basic rules and limits include:
- Limit the amount of time children spend watching television. A general public consensus is that most children spend more time than they should in front of the TV. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children's television viewing be limited to no more than one or two hours a day.
- Avoid watching television during meals. Television viewing during meals sets bad habits relating to family conversations and interactions. Children who eat while they watch television tend to eat more and therefore gain more weight.
- Limit or eliminate children's snacks during television viewing. Children (and adults too) tend to consume sweet and salty snacks while watching television. After all, many television commercials, especially those aimed at kids, are for sweet and salty snacks. Therefore, the amount and kind of snacks children eat while watching television should be monitored and controlled.
- Monitor children's television viewing. Children should not be permitted to watch adult television, violent programs, or violent cartoons. This means that parents and other adults who are responsible for children have to screen and monitor what their children watch. When children are allowed to watch violent television, they not only learn violent and aggressive behavior, but they also become desensitized to violence.
- Keep televisions out of children's bedrooms. Generally speaking, children should not be permitted to have a television in their room; however, as our statistics show, 36 percent of children do have one in their room! When children have a television in their bedroom, their television viewing is not monitored and they can and do watch whatever they want.
- Don't use television as a babysitter. Television is not able to care for, protect, or nurture childre. In other words, television cannot take the place of a parent. Likewise, television should not be used as a means of "keeping children busy."
- Participate with children. Parents should watch television with their children. This way parents can discuss program content with their children and can clarify actions and behaviors.
- Be a good role model. Parents can be good role models when they set good examples by the programs they watch. Parents should not view television with adult, sexual, or violent content when children are present.
- Help children learn from television. The majority of parents believe that children learn from television. So, encourage parents to watch educational shows with their children.
Source: V.J. Rideout, A. E. Vandewater, and E. A. Wartella, "Zero to Six: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers," The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, http://www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/zero-to-six-electronic-media-in-the-lives-of-infants-toddlers-and-preschoolers-PDF.pdf.
© ______ 2008, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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