As parents of a growing child, at many times you’ll need to weigh up the good and the bad impacts of particular situations for your child. One such situation will likely arise when your child starts to watch television (TV) or other devices involving screen time.
In this article, Starting Blocks offers information to help you decide on screen time, and some tips you may want to consider for healthier viewing.
- Watching educational shows can be both entertaining and teach children about things such as letters and numbers (think of classics such as Sesame Street and Play School).
- Shows about wildlife and natural environments can be a great source of knowledge for the child. Even if they don’t understand what’s happening, they may be fascinated by seeing the wildlife and it might make them more aware of the world around them.
- Some shows teach children about different people, cultures, and places. They give children exposure to other parts of the world we live in, and things that they might not otherwise come across.
- Television can be a good way to introduce your child to sports, be it cricket or soccer or table tennis. This can be a good topic for conversation with pre-schoolers. You can tell them about interesting facts related to different sports or sportspeople and they have the opportunity to learn about the rules of the game, which can transfer into their own play.
- Feel-good shows can offer an opportunity for your child to de-stress. While you may think that children don’t stress, they can feel anxious when separated from parents for child care, or when they lose someone close (a pet or a grandparent), or they see big changes at home (e.g. moving house etc.).
- TV, and other devices are cheap sources of entertainment. The colourful images and the sounds can appeal to children and engage them.
- Some research shows that watching shows has no educational benefits for children under 24 months of age. Watching TV could divert them from activities that help brain development.
- Watching screens can be addictive, and parents can struggle to entice children to play in other ways.
- Watching screens for long periods of time can lead to difficulties falling asleep, disturbed sleep patterns and other health issues.
- Care needs to be taken with age appropriate content in television shows, games and advertisements –your child could view inappropriate content that is of a violent or sexual nature.
- Children may adore, discuss and imitate characters from shows or games, and not all behaviours may be good influences on your child.
- Some experts believe that long hours of watching screens interferes with a child’s speech development.
- As watching screens tends to not involve any physical activity, some experts feel that long hours of screen time can lead to childhood obesity.
- Advertising can have a huge impact on children, and they may start pestering you and others for things they see advertised on television. Such as the latest toy or sugary food.
- Watching screens for long periods of time may have a negative effect on your child’s eye development.
- If a child prefers watching a screen than socialising or playing with friends or peers, it may impact their social development.
Advice for parents:
- Try to delay introducing television and other screens to your child. It is recommended that children under 24 months should not be exposed to any screen time.
- Try not to use a screen as a source of ‘babysitting’ or distraction for your child.
- Supervise your child when they are watching or using television or other devices, to ensure age appropriate content is being viewed or played.
- Watch television shows and view games before your child does to ensure the content is suitable.
- Use a parental control tool to block access to programs or games that you think may be unsuitable for your child.
- Limit television and other screen time to less than an hour a day.
- Read to your child or get them to read before bedtime, instead of letting them watch a screen or television. Putting them into a bed time routine helps them to settle for the evening and prepare them for sleep.
- Watch television with your child and engage them in conversation during breaks. This will help you build a connection with them, and develop their conversation skills.
- Don’t let television viewing replace your child’s other activities and outdoor play.
- Use television to teach your child about advertising as an entertaining feature that doesn’t always present true information.
- Be a role model as your child learns from what they see. Switching off your mobile phone during meal-times and making sure you don’t watch television or use other devices for long hours, models healthy screen time habits.