Television Can Affect the Learning of a Child

Monitoring what your child watches and how much time he spends at it will enable you to make appropriate use of television.

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It is estimated that a child in the United States will have watched about 4,000 hours of television before he begins school. If he's four years old when his schooling begins, he's about 35,040 hours old. He's spent roughly an eighth of his life watching TV! Most experts agree that is simply too much. But good television is important. It can spark a child's curiosity and may open up new worlds. It's an important learning tool when used properly. Monitoring what your child watches and how much time he spends at it will enable you to make appropriate use of television. It will give the child a healthy perspective about TV and help him to have a constructive relationship with it. As soon as your child begins to watch television, become active about fostering good viewing habits.

Unmonitored and excessive viewing poses various threats:

  • Exposure to sex and violence
  • Unhealthy influence of junk food and toy commercials
  • Create confusion about what good behavior looks like (it can contradict what you've taught them!)
  • Hinder a healthy differentiation between reality and make believe
  • Passive viewing for extended periods can hinder social and intellectual development

Set Standards

These dangers are only a threat if you aren't involved and active. There are lots of ways to regulate your child's TV intake. Try keeping a log of how many hours of television your child watches in a day, a week and a month. Take careful note of what they watch. As a rule of thumb, keep the time to less than two hours a day.

Get Informed

Learn about the current TV programs and choose the very best, the ones that best suit your child's taste and will be most meaningful for your family. PBS is always a reliable source for children's entertainment and educational TV. Disney and Nickelodeon have a lot to offer also. Here are some programs for young children you might consider:

  • Sesame Street
  • Blue's Clues
  • Eureka's Castle
  • Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood
  • Shining Time Station
  • Dragon Tales

For the DVD Player

DVD movies vary in quality, but versions of classic children's books such as Babar or Snow White are a great place to start. Another great option is Veggie Tales. These stories have a Christian theme that is tastefully presented in a way that any child can enjoy and any parent can feel good about, no matter what their religious beliefs. The stories are fun, witty and intelligent and beautifully illustrated. Check newspapers and the program guides provided by your cable company for more information.

Be There for TV Time

Participate in your child's TV time. Make a plan for what you will watch together. By being present, you'll teach your child how to watch TV while being considerate of other viewers and you'll be there to answer the questions any good show will inevitably bring up. Pay attention to how your child responds so you can offer guidance at those times when he doesn't think to ask for it. Discuss the program with your child when it's over and include your whole family in the conversation. Be sure to keep the TV turned off until it's time to start watching, then turn it off again when your show is over.

It's important not to let the TV babysit your child or become your child's best friend. Carefully monitored television viewing can add value to your child's exploration of life, but too much TV and the wrong kind can hinder that exploration. It's a delicate balance, but it's not difficult to maintain, all it takes is awareness and attention.

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