Does Your Child Watch Too Much TV?
By Adora Okogeri
Generally a child’s life is primarily influenced by his/her parents, television, (very long hours in front of the television each week), and peer group (pressure of classmates)
Television in itself has a strong influence on children both positively and negatively. The good side of TV includes: your child can learn through the educational programs about various subjects; get motivated to read and study books; build an analytical minds from the program (s)he watches.
But our concern is to discourage the negative influence and enforce the positive one, which is why we have to build a healthy viewing habit with the help of supervision from mom or dad.
This form of mass media model has become of particular concern to parents. The young minds believe and act on what they see. You can easily note the power of television commercials as your child repeats TV slogans and jumps up excitedly for favourite advertisements. Some children want to do their homework while watching TV and of course do not concentrate while carrying out the assignment.
It is very important for parents to know the programs their kids watch because some of these programs portray violence as the way to solve problems; some feature characters who use bad language, lie, steal, cheat and practice intolerable behaviour which we don’t want our children to learn. Some show how one‘s goal of becoming a hero in life is achieved through violence.
On the other hand, there are advantages of watching television. It can help teach the child to learn important lessons and values. As a parent, you don’t want the bad aspects of the television to influence your child, so you have a responsibility to encourage good television habits in your home. These are the commitments you have to make to help your child’s viewing habit.
You should set a good example. How much time do you spend watching television? Which programs do you view? If u watch TV a lot, it will be hard to convince your child not to watch.
9999Choose appropriate programs and videos for your child. Watch these program yourself so you will know and select for your child the ones which promote positive and healthy messages.
Do not encourage having a TV in your child’s bedroom. When there is a TV in the child’s room, it simply encourages him/her to watch more and would be difficult for you to effectively monitor what programs they watch.
Discourage viewing television during meals. In many homes the TV is just on and running even when no one is watching. It should always be turned off when not in use rather than being on for long hours in the home. It should be switched on when specific programs are to be watched.
Substitute other activities for TV watching. Instead of having the child watch TV for long hours, you can substitute with activities like reading storybooks together, going out for a walk or playing together, or gardening.
TV should not be used as a babysitter. Sometimes because parents are very busy with house chores, they tend to leave the children in front of the TV for long hours. You have to limit time spent viewing the TV.
Watch TV together. It is always good for you as a parent to watch television with your child and ask questions about what you are watching. If there’s any negative behaviour shown on the program, for example the character using violence, fighting or encouraging revenge, tell your child that, that particular behaviour is not approved, so he should not behave like that.
If it has become a concern that your child spends too many hours viewing television or watches a lot of unsuitable programs, you have to try and break the habit.
Unplug TV from the switch and have a discussion. Call everyone in the family together and express your concerns on the matter and also what your plans are. Let them know how the family will spend the free time away from the TV. You should ask for their suggestions on what activities you can embark on.
Have rules and stick to them. Set some rules regarding watching of TV programs. Let there be a set schedule. Allocate a set number of hours for TV watching. Decide together which programs to be watched, the child can make choices but you have the right to refuse inappropriate ones.
Be sure to treat TV as a privilege, and not a right: Let the child understand that watching TV is not their entitlement. You can then use the privilege to watch to help you enforce rules in regards to TV. If the child refuses to follow the viewing plan or breaks the rules, you could unplug the television for the day.
Resources: University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development and the Frank and Theresa Caplan Fund for Early Childhood Development and Parenting Education. You And Your Child Parenting Guide. March, 6 2008