Children and TV are strongly linked in today's world. Television is without doubt a strong educative force for children if used effectively. Its educational advantages cannot be ignored.
However, TV for children can be very addictive as children remain glued to TV instead of exploring the world around them. Consequently, parents tend to have two very diverse responses to children watching television. Mother X feels that we should let children watch what they want and when they want on Television. However, Mother Y has a strong anti-TV stance and feels that all television is bad and children should not be allowed to watch it. The truth lies somewhere in between.
There are two processes which occur while children watch TV. The first process involves a reaction to the content of the programme that she watches. The child reacts to the programme on the basis of the experiences she brings to it. The second process includes the environment in which she watches the television. For example, parents enjoy eating with television viewing. Many mothers do their cooking while viewing television. These habits determine children's TV viewing habits - how much, how long and what kind of programmes. As a caring parent, start developing good TV viewing habits for your child at an early age.
Good Television Viewing Habits for Children
- Establish time limits for watching television. Remember to follow the time limit strictly. It is advisable to allow your child to watch television for only half an hour daily.
- Develop planned viewing with specific programmes. To do this, avoid turning on the set and see what's on to help you decide what the child can watch.
- Involve children in physical activities in between planned programmes. This prevents them from continuously sitting for long hours in front of the television.
- Analyse and determine the television programmes made for children and which involve children in your child's age group.
- Never allow children to use TV as an excuse for not participating in other activities.
- Help children to use time for self for other purposes such as playing rather than just viewing whatever is shown on TV.
- Guide your children in understanding the difference between 'make believe' and real life situations.
- Encourage discussions and give opportunities for your children to raise questions about what they watch on Television.
- Read to your children as much as possible. Develop the reading habit at an early age.
- Expose deception in TV advertising and help them understand that all those "tasty food" can really be harmful.
- Sit down with your child and closely supervise her television watching. Make television watching an interactive process.
- Encourage your child to watch programmes that sharpen her thinking skills.
- Help children to know more about the world around them by allowing them to watch programmes relating to this. These can be wildlife programmes, programmes on historic places and so on.
- Never use the television as an electronic baby sitter.
- Make yourself more interesting than the television for the child. Take her out for a walk or play a game with her and her dolls.
- Do not encourage your kid to watch television during meal time and family get togethers.
- Help your child to learn something new from the programme that she just saw. For example, you can tell her that the programme focussed on an apple. Tell her many benefits that the apple can provide.
- If you see a negative act being telecast on the television, speak about it. For example if your child sees a house burning, you can tell her that no one was hurt inspite of the burning.
- Do not keep the television on if no one is watching it.
- Rather than relying on the television as a break for you to go about your chores, get your children involved in some creative activity.
- Avoid using the television as punishment or a reward.
- Balance reading and television activities.
- Help children develop a balanced viewing schedule of Action, Comedy, Fine Arts, Fantasy, Sports etc.
- Arrange for an Antenna or Distribution system to facilitate Alternative programming from which they can select.
- Speak out about commercials which indicate problems. Make sure that children understand that this is not necessarily 'normal' for all people.
- Point out positive examples of how people perform competently in a variety of occupations.
- Illustrate positive examples which show how various ethnic and cultural groups contribute towards making in better society.
The television has been aptly named the Idiot Box. Young children have no control over the television viewing act. As a parent, it is upto you to decide how much TV your children are exposed to. Do not allow the television to overpower your children. Remember not to establish this control using commands or threats. Try using humour to influence your child. The earlier you train your child on wise television watching, the more it will reap benefits for her in her later years.