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How does TV affect your child?

Child playing with remote control for television

There’s no doubt that kids TV shows and DVD’s are entertaining and for the most part quite educational which has a positive impact on their development. But how much is too much? And what impact does advertising and violence have on young children? Our new article on kids TV and DVD’s looks at all this as well as easy, positive ways to manage your child’s exposure to TV at home.

It is very difficult, especially on rainy days when getting outside is almost impossible, to avoid switching on the television for our children. However, a groundbreaking study has found that over-exposure to television has a negative impact on children in later years in relation to their education and their weight.

1,314 kids took part in the investigation, as part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development Main Exposure. Parents were asked to report how much TV their kids watched at 29 months and at 53 months in age. In addition, their teachers were asked to evaluate academic, psychosocial and health habits, while body mass index (BMI) was measured at 10 years old.

The alarming results showed that watching too much TV as toddlers resulted in a seven percent decrease in classroom engagement; a 10 percent increase in victimisation by classmates; a nine percent decrease in general physical activity; a 10 percent peak in snacks intake; and a five percent increase in body mass index (BMI).

Whilst it is fair to say there are positive benefits to watching television it should be used judiciously. These are the current viewing guidelines from Young Media Australia:

  • children under 2 years – very little time
  • preschoolers – an hour a day is plenty (of programs made for preschool children).
  • children 5 – 7 or 8 years – an hour a day is plenty
  • children over 8 years – an hour and a half to two hours a day is plenty.

In addition, as parents it is important to monitor television viewing. Studies from the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and American Medical) issued a joint statement in 2000 that children who see a lot of violence are more likely to view violence as an effective way of settling conflicts. Children exposed to violence are more likely to assume that acts of violence are acceptable behaviour and viewing violence can lead to emotional desensitization towards violence in real life. It can also decrease the likelihood that one will take action on behalf of a victim when violence occurs.

As well as this, entertainment violence feeds a perception that the world is a violent and mean place.

So as parents how can we ensure that what our children are watching is a positive rather than a passive experience?

For infants it is evident that television is of little or no benefit to them. The same can be said for toddlers. However, the reality is that most parents will allow their children to watch television so it is important to have some clear guidelines in place when doing so:

  • Only allow your children to watch programmes that are rated G. You can see the full details about these guidelines here.
  • Establish rules for your family and stick to them, for instance, only one hour of TV per day, or no TV before school.
  • Tape good children’s programs for later viewing. This will enable you to fast forward through commercials if they have any.
  • Make sure meal times are not spent in front of the television.
  • Ask your children how the shows they watch make them feel
  • Talk about advertising with your kids as soon as they are exposed to it.
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