TeleTotties – managing your child’s TV time

Society is totally immersed in the media culture through television, DVD, computer games, as well as the Internet. It is a fact that nearly all homes in the UK have both a television and DVD in their home, and it is now very much a part of, as well as a significant influence on both adults’ and children’s lives.

At the moment I feel that my husband and I have 99.9% control over my son Joshua’s viewing. He seems to really enjoy watching TV and DVDs and, like most mothers, I am always cautious of what he is watching, especially the age it is aimed for and more importantly the context. There has been much controversy about the television, eg. the various disadvantages, benefits, and effects etc, and this article looks at the positive side of the TV. Despite all its faults, most children’s programmes have been designed specifically to inform and entertain as well as offering a wonderful range of experiences such as sights, sounds and people. Also, children’s programmes can help them understand about virtually inconceivable wonders such as natural history and foreign places.

I let Joshua watch the children’s programmes that I feel are suitable for him. He loves watching Teletubbies, and I am amazed at how it totally captivates his complete attention and he giggled and smiled the whole time. Although my husband was not that impressed with the prospect of watching the Teletubbies he has had to admit that it certainly does something for our son, who now even chatters back at the Teletubbies whenever it’s on.

However in order to enjoy some of the benefits of the television it is wise to set some ground rules.

Here are my own ideas for Positive TV viewing.

Use your child’s age and development to guide you in choosing TV programs . Infants & toddlers are interested in the bright, colourful, moving objects that are on TV. They also enjoy the music and may ‘dance’ to a favourite commercial jingle. Commercials generally hold their attention well, but during most programs you will find them crawling or toddling off to an-other activity. Preschool Age have longer attention spans and are able to watch short programs. However, they often are not able to understand the whole story of a program. They can remember only small pieces of what they see and often cannot tie everything together. One important thing to remember is that Preschool children also may become frightened easily by something as simple as a man’s face in a cereal box or a talking shoe!

Establish reasonable limitations – as soon as your toddler takes active interest in the TV, to avoid the struggle that TV and video viewing may cause. It can lead to friction and disappointment to name but a few! Even though your child may protest at your restrictions stick with them, Most parents feel frustrated at what their child is exposed to at friends houses, video stores, fast-food restaurants etc. However try to talk about your concerns and develop responsible viewing habits. Before you turn on the TV, discuss how long it will stay on for, and which programs are worth watching. Set reasonable time limits on TV and video but when hen a selected programme/video is over, turn off the TV and suggest a different activity.

Be selective – only let your toddler watch appropriate programmes specifically designed for their age group. (idea : Help a child who is able to choose one or two programs and mark their choices on a TV guide with a bright coloured marker. They will enjoy doing it as well as feeling in control ) Promote appropriate TV programmes and, if possible, record them as children are often interested in watching good programs again and again. At the moment I feel Teletubbies is a programme I want to promote to Joshua as it is designed specifically for the under two year olds. Teletubbies communicate and act in a very baby Like manner, using many first words and phases, they sometimes try to imitate the narrators voice and the voice trumpets. and there is lots of sound effects and music, which all seems to be of great appeal. Teletubbies are also extremely good role models for our children They are sociable, enthusiastic, energetic, active, kind and loving to name but a few and surely these are the positive attitudes we to want to portray to our own children.

Watch together – communicate with your child about what they are watching, and with children answer any questions. It can be very enjoyable to have some quality time with your child sitting down together, relaxing and enjoying a TV programme !

Avoid using the TV like a babysitter – It is often easy to leave an older toddler watching TV whilst doing the odd household chore but be particularly vigilant as to what they are watching and for how long.

Do not use the TV as a reward or punishment – this only makes the child think that the television is that bit more tantalising and exciting.

Encourage your child to be a TV critic – One of the most helpful things you can do as a parent is to teach them to question and think about what they are watching.

Set a positive example – all toddlers love to mimic their parents, so try to set a good role model when it comes to TV viewing. (It you use the TV for background noise try turning it off and put on some music on instead)

Use the TV to teach various skills to older toddlers…

  • observation skills – eg. What did the little girl do?
  • creativity – eg. Shall we make a kite like that one?
  • intellect – eg. Why do you think the teacher said that?
  • vocabulary – eg. do you know what that word means?
  • knowledge – eg. Did you know the answer to that question?

DVDs

The main difference between TV and DVDs is the fact that a DVD can be played at any time, rewound, fast forwarded and played again and again. I always try to make sure any DVD watched is suitable, which can be difficult especially when borrowing from a library as many U classified films contain some scary or bad things. Observe their expression while they watch the DVD. Look out for signals of fear, admiration, excitement, or anger. Be prepared to talk through any issues that your child seems to react to. eg the shooting of the mother deer in Bambi. Children are extremely emotional and sensitive.

And finally

I feel that, regardless of everything else, as parents we should stop and think for a moment about the TV programmes and DVDs our children are watching and whether they are suitable and relevant for the age of the child, and as importantly whether the moral standards being put across are acceptable to us before we criticise and make judgement .

This article expresses my own views, opinions and strategies on what is a topical and difficult issue for parents. However I do hope that this article has been of interest to all who have read it, and even if you are now thinking “I disagree a bit or I disagree totally” at least it has made you think over this very important aspect of child raising.

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