Most of the time, to get some quiet time for ourselves, we resort to TV. We play some rhymes, cartoon series or anything that makes our little ones sit tight for a while. While they get glued to the screen, we get to sit back, check our mails, sneak in to FB notifications, do some window shopping, etc. But, deep inside, we always get a feel that something is not right about letting them watch TV. Since we do not see any immediate effects, we tend to overlook. So,
- Should the kids be allowed to watch TV?
- If so, how much of screen time is OK?
Well, there is no one size fits all answer. In fact, it is one of the largely debated and highly researched topics. Needless to say, there are opinions which are just polar opposite. But, below are some proven facts out of various laboratory researches and statistical data.
- Poor non-verbal grasping - The amount of TV a child should watch before they are two years old is absolutely zero. This is when their emotional, social and language skills will start to develop. TV or any other digital content does not help them in grasping non-verbal cues. No matter how interactive the program is, there is no replacement for human interaction.
- Emotional unresponsiveness - A TV does not respond to a kid. When your kid cries, TV does not soothe them. When they smile, TV don't smile back. Based on how much TV the kid is exposed to, they could grow to be emotionally unresponsive.
- No physical activity - After 2 years of age, TV keeps them away from exercises, outdoor activities and playtime. This is not good as it would affect their motor skills development. Just having the TV on while no one is watching could also cause serious damage because of distraction.
- Affects attention and focus - TV affects the attention span of a kid and their ability to focus. A preschooler who watches TV for 3 hours a day is 30% more likely to have attention problems than a child who watches no TV. Result is declined academic performance. Academic performance is not the only indicator of how smart a kid is. But, it's important that a kid should not have focus and attention problems.
- Difficulty in adapting to classroom - The kids who are exposed to too much TV will have trouble adapting to the classrooms. These kids find the lectures less stimulating as they were used to visual stimulation. And, this would result in poor academics.
- Increases violence - Many shows targeted at the kids are fast paced, action packed and has gravity defying stunt sequences. They could instil violence in the kids and these kids will have the tendency to get to action immediately in parks, grounds, etc during conflicts. American Association of pediatrics estimates that 10 to 20% of real-life violence are attributed to the violence in TV media.
Well, what can you do about this?
- No TV until 2 - Turn off your TV until your child turns 2. It may sound impractical, but, at least, limit your child's exposure to TV.
- Help them choose the shows - When your kid is 2 years old, help them choose the shows. Pay special attention to the media that allow intelligent interaction. Don't screen any action packed, violent shows.
- Teach them how to watch - Watch the chosen show with your children, interact with the media. Help your children to analyze and think critically about what they just experienced.
- Set strict timelines - Set a time and stick to it. Studies prove that most of the media consumption does not aid early stage brain development, but, affects them.
- Most important of all, MODERATE - The moderation should happen at the earliest age. Older they get, tougher your job would be to restrict them. Kids go insanely violent. Let me re-emphasize - Moderate, but, start early.
With the advent of smart phones, tablets, phablets, laptops, e-readers, gaming stations, etc., things got only worse. We do not need scientists to tell us that these gadgets influence our kid's socialization skills, sports and academics. But, while you moderate, watch it with them and explain him a few things that your kid sees there. As they can remember the visual very vividly, you can remind them at a real life situation by quoting the TV show. It really works, period.
“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” ― Groucho Marx. Happy parenting!