I have long been a proponent for television. While the party line has been that it will rot your brain, I have always thought that it could be a useful tool in childhood development when applied correctly. Finally, the experts have come around to my way of thinking.
The recent New York Times article “Limiting, and Watching, What Children Watch” talks about the vast media smorgasboard available to children today.
Is there any hope for a balanced meal?
Yes, say experts on children and the media, as long as parents teach children to make good choices. Instead of talking only about time limits – the pediatricians’ academy recommends limiting screen time to one to two hours a day – researchers are zeroing in on trouble spots and taking content into account. New guidelines are taking shape: Keep the television and computer out of the child’s bedroom, don’t be afraid to set limits, pay attention to what appears on screen and how different ages respond to it, and encourage children to think critically about what they see.
I couldn’t have said it better. I have long argued it’s not how much TV children watch, but watch they watches and what else they do.
As a big TV addict myself, I’ve never been good at limiting the number of hours my kids watch TV.
Instead I’m a strict about what they watch – educational television. They spend most of their TV time on shows on Disney Playhouse and Noggin.
We have lots of discussions and activities around their favorite shows. If it’s a show with questionable content or a delicate issue (we watch one show about the race riots in the 60s), we watch it together and then talk about the issue.
Here’s an article I wrote how you can reinforce what these shows teach with additional activities and conversations. And how these actions also teach your children there is more to their world of interest that what’s on the television.
And finally we balance our TV time with lots of other activities that don’t involve the TV at all like gym class, art class, play dates and field trips.
The same can be said of the Internet. Don’t be afraid to let your children get on it. Instead teach the how useful it can be and monitor their usage. Sites like Disney, PBS and others offer educational games.
I recently discovered a website called Kids Off the Couch that incorporates television and the Internet with educational activities.
So instead of banning television or the net, use it to your advantage.