AND TV: HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
An American study showed that on
average, dads spend 8 minutes, working mothers spend 11 minutes
and stay-at-home moms spend less than 30 minutes talking to
their children each day (University of Missouri Extension Service
study). By comparison, another study found that children spend
between two to four hours watching TV per day. It is naïve
to think that TV has no impact on our children and our families.
Our children are fast becoming a part of a TV culture, which
includes computers and cell-phones. A more realistic question,
therefore is what kind of impact does television have?
If we as parents are careful not
to allow murdered, rapists, thieves and other unsavory characters
in our homes, then how do we let them into the TV room? This
does not mean that children must be deprived of TV. It means
that the content of what they watch has to be monitored carefully.
Before looking at how to go about doing this, lets take a closer
look at the impact of TV on our children and families.
TV is often punctuated with violence.
A study in America showed (Tomlinson-Keasey) that physical aggression
occurs between 10 and 20 times per hour on prime-time weekend
viewing. They conclude that by the time the average child graduates
from high school, he or she will have witnessed 13 000 violent
deaths on TV. There is also evidence, which shows that when
children watch aggression on TV they are more likely to behave
aggressively. And this is even more apparent in the pre-school
years. Children learn from what they observe. They model what
they see. If they see that adults behave aggressively when they
are angry, they learn to do the same. While children might learn
this from TV it is much more powerful if they see it at home.
It is no use limiting the aggression that children are exposed
to on TV if they are living with aggression at home. Sometimes
it is easy to blame TV at the source of all evil, when there
are many other contributing factors that are ignored.
I have often watched children watching
TV. They seem to be in a trance-like state, an altered state
of consciousness. What becomes apparent is that they are in
a state of deep relaxation. What is worrying is that they loose
the capacity to filter out what is real and what is not, what
is right and what is not. They loose the capacity to think.
As indicated in the study above,
the more TV children watch, the less communication there is
between family members. One does not know whether poor communication
causes children to watch TV or whether TV causes poor communication.
But the point is that there is a high correlation between the
two. Make a conscious effort to communicate. TV can be used
as a the topic for comminicaiton. “Did you like that programme?”
“how could that have ended differently, etc”.
So what is your role as parent?
Parents need to be both sensors and mediators! This
means that you have to decide what is appropriate to watch on
TV and what is not. You have to decide this for yourself and
for your children. But this is not your only role. To mediate
what children see is also important. This means that you have
to watch with them and talk about what you see. Perhaps you
talk about what you both like about the program and what you
didn’t like about it. Perhaps you talk about the parts
you didn’t like and why. So if you are watching the cricket
with your son and a streaker flies across the screen, this is
not to say that you sensor all sport. This is an opportunity
to learn from the experience. This is an opportunity to talk
to your children about the world.
2. Videos are far more appropriate for children, since
parents can be sure about what children are watching.
They can monitor the process more carefully.
3. Because TV is passive, balance it with active play.
4. Allow children to develop their auditory skills too.
Listenign to stories is a wonderful way for children to build
their listening skills and their imagination. TV and Vidoe’s
are auditory and visual and they don’t allow children
to imagine and think creatively.
5. TV and video’s can stimulate play.
When Liam watches cricket he likes to go outside to play cricket.
This is healthy and can be encouraged.
6. Because TV is instant gratification and promotes
this – even wildlife videos do not reflect the reality
of time. A baby calf is borna nd grows old in he same
half hour show. balance it with slower activities such as planting
a seed. Chidlrne need to know that there is a process to life
which unfolds and that not all experiences are instantaneious.
There are other positives to the use of TV, computers
Video’s or computers can be good babysitterers.
When you have to fee the baby and your toddler keeps disrupting
the process, it is a relief to put on Barney and have some peace
and quiet for a while. This is apporpirate. It supports you
in order for you to support the children. Of course this is
open to abuse and needs to be monitored.
Samuel was very anxious about starting a new school. He was
ready early in the morning and waiting to go. But the longer
he waited the more anxious he became. His mom recommended that
he watch some sport on TV. This gave him the opportunity
to stop thinking for a bit.
Gina’s parent are divorced. When she comes home from her
dad, her mom asks her “what did you do? Where did you
go? Did you eat ? have your bathed? Gina feels bombarded by
questions. She needs some “transitional space”,
some emotional time and space to help her with the transition
form one home ot another. TV is a nice way to do this! To
give her some time to chill our before she adjusts to the demands
of a different environment.
TV and Videos’ can be educational. Just like
children learnt the negative stuff they learn the positive stuff
much is too much?
much time as they watch is about the same amount of time they
need to be read to. So if you can read to them for
4 hours then let them watch for 4 hours. Balance reading, playing
and TV or computers so that children are getting what they need
in a day.