Television and Your Child

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Television has a rather sour reputation among parents as being damaging to children, but in truth not everything about television is bad. In fact, even the most common problem with television we heard growing up has turned out to be false. Sitting too close to the television won’t hurt your eyes – although it might hurt your child’s waistline.

Television and Weight

The biggest argument about television watching among children is the amount of time it takes away from exercise and activity. It is far better for a child to be outside running or riding a bike than watching his favorite show, there is no argument. But an hour or two of television in the evenings or early morning isn’t going to deliver too much of a punch to the waistline – especially if you’re able to use that time for another healthy purpose.

Television and Family

There is something fun about watching television as a family. It gives family members time together with a single purpose and it also gives family members a common interest. This is true, of course, only if the family actually sits together. If your child wants to watch a show in the evening, try sitting down together to watch it. This not only gives you a window into their interests and hobbies, it also allows you conversation starters and you might even learn something about what makes your child tick. This is especially good for preteen and teenagers who are starting to search for independence and are looking to make their own decisions.

Television and the Mind

Television isn’t very good for the mind, unfortunately. It essentially puts the mind on autopilot most of the time which is why it feels so good to tune out and watch your favorite shows. It’s the tuning out that harms children more than inactivity. The child that does nothing but watch entertainment that is completely mind-numbing for hours on end every day won’t be able to figure and be creative the way he would otherwise.

Young children should have ample opportunities to be creative and to build or puzzle things out. While some children’s television now tries to interact with children to help them solve puzzles and even encouraging them to talk to the television, this is not a substitution for true interaction with others or for solving problems while playing. However, the mind numbing properties of television do work well when a child is first waking up or in a quiet time before bed or naps.

Finding the Right Balance with Television

Television requires a certain amount of balance between what you find appropriate, what works for your family and what is healthy for your child. Many parents rely on the television to distract and entertain toddlers and preschoolers for some time during the day when other tasks need to get done – such as mopping that might be dangerous or difficult with a child underfoot. Other times, the family might sit down together for a family movie night which is nice time together. And still other times, rain keeps you inside and the television is a lifesaver.

When you do choose to watch television, try to limit the viewing to no more than an hour or two a day for children over two. Children younger than that really don’t need to watch television at all, but absolutely should have no more than thirty minutes to an hour a day. Watching television together with your little one and talking to her about what she’s seeing is another way to make television a positive experience for everyone.

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