Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Making the Most (Or Least) of Television At Your House

Since 1999 the American Academy of Pediatrics has been discouraging parents from allowing kids under two to watch television. However, many parents, leaders and even some pediatricians have felt that the academy's views were draconian and out of touch at best.

However, ongoing study and more recent research have showed a couple of concepts to still be true. First, young children learn best from real people and playing with real objects. And second, kids over two can learn language and social skills from high-quality programs.

In fact, there is evidence that watching significant television, even the usual teaching shows such as Sesame Street, can hurt their language development, reduce the quality of sleep and detract from unplugged, unstructured playtime.

In addition, when parents watch a lot of TV they tend to talk and interact less with their children in general and the TV distracts the child even if they are not actively watching the parent's show.

So, while only a few parents would choose or need to enforce a totally no-TV rule, there are some basic principles that the research seems to suggest for the wise parent.

First, don't just leave the television on in your home. Whether we like it or not, it distracts and impedes healthy and rich interactions while stealing from a family's ability to concentrate on each other.

Second, limit the amount of time your child who is two or older spends in front of the television.  Of course, choose programming that is enriching or appropriately entertaining but limit the amount as well. Make television a treat or something special, not the norm. Be intentional about the plan you put in place for the role of television in your child's life.

Third, as kids begin school, don't allow the television to be on while they do schoolwork. You as a parent may need to change some of your habits but your life will be better too as you focus on reading,  hobbies or interaction with your spouse or friends.

Fourth, develop habits of doing things together as a family that might have been spent in front of the television. Playing games, reading, watch a video of interest and just talking are nurturing activities that are often lost in many homes these days.

Finally, when you can watch television together and discuss some of what you saw, good or bad, afterwards. Sometimes you will get sideswiped by a negative impression or scene that you weren't planning on.  Use it as a teaching opportunity and lead-in for further discussion depending upon the ages of your kids.

Television isn't evil or harmful in and of itself. It can just be used that way. However, we can also turn it into a valuable means of enhancing our kids' worldview, knowledge and growth if we'll just manage it well. And that won't happen by itself.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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