TV can be bad for your child

TV VS PLAY

TV can be bad for your child

Unstructured playtime is more valuable for the developing brain than exposure to TV programmes, says Mary Chelladurai

The present generation truly lives in a media-centric world. The average Indian school going child typically clocks up forty-five minutes to one hour in front of the television, daily. And on a holiday it ranges from three to four hours. Most or all, free time is spent in front of the  television or other screens. It is indeed disheartening to see that children with bubbling springs of energy become action-less spectators thus hampering socialising and free play time.

Research has shown that a child could continue to live in the fantasy world of television long after he’s stopped watching TV, this sometimes causes nightmares if the child has watched anything frightening or scary. It is even more saddening to see that slightly older children are not aware of their neighbourhood but are on Facebook with hundred or more virtual friends. According to Osho, TV watching reduces us to a state of being spectators, we simply see other people live, other people play, we have stopped living and have forgotten the joys of our life. To wrap this up in a nutshell, we can say TV watching is simply passive and children must be encouraged to have an active and participating life.

Many studies have pointed out that television viewing hampers the growth and development of infants and toddlers below two years of age, as during this phase of growth they need to hear and listen to responsive interactions, which is essential to early brain development and to cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and linguistic development.

Unstructured playtime is more valuable for the developing brain than any electronic media. The American Academy of Paediatrics in its policy states that, “Paediatricians should urge parents to avoid television viewing for children under the age of two years.” 
The opinion and belief is based on the fact that there are more possible dissenting effects of media than any favourable ones for this age group. Many relevant studies have analysed that children below a year who are tuned to television watching have a significantly higher chance of having a language delay.

Here are a few guidelines that will help parents and care-givers get the best from the media world, while avoiding the worst.

- First and foremost take into account your own viewing habits. If television is your chief entertainment, than curtail your own TV viewing so that your child follows your example. A child learns from what you do than from what you say  

- Make simple rules along with your child about how much and what kind of TV or other screen play is acceptable in your home

- It is best to watch and monitor TV and other screen activities with your child to encourage the child to be an active viewer. Ask the child questions about the content and, if necessary, explain how advertisers try to manipulate thoughts and feelings  

- Monitor what the child watches. Read the newspaper and update yourself about the schedule of children’s programme on the TV. It is advisable to periodically check regular shows; don’t unthinkingly assume cartoons are children’s fare. Many old and new cartoons are heavily laced with violence.

- Have concrete strategies to manage all electronic media. In most cases when a child is a toddler, retain and control the remote. As the child gets older start reasoning with your child, help the child to make the right choice of the programme to be watched and the time limit. Make a deal. Call a halt when the time comes.

- Discuss the programmes as you would a book. Encourage the child to recall them and tell you about them. Studies show that programmes are less frightening or confusing to a child if a parent is present to discuss them. In the same way, commercials have a much lesser impact if a child can ask an adult about them.

- Don’t build the child’s life around the television or other screens. Plan other out-door pastimes for weekend mornings or late afternoons. A walk to the park or a small outing on a Saturday morning is a good way to engage the child, and late afternoon is preferably a good time to read a story.

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