OPINION POST + ‘TUDES
This post is more about questions than answers. I’ve often wondered what the effect of television is on our little peeps. I wouldn’t say I’m a TV nazi, but I don’t particularly favour television as a go-to entertainment. Sure there are some good things about it, such as downtime and educational content. But left to their own devices, my little peeps could waste hours watching the box if I let them.
When it comes to TV there are two main questions to consider:
- What physical effect does the screen have?
- What effect does television program content have on their minds?
Let’s take a quick look at question 1. first: What physical effect does the screen have?
The theory that sitting too close to the TV may damage your eyesight seems to be a myth according to the dozen or so articles I recently reviewed. However, sitting close to a TV may be a telltale sign that your little peep has nearsightedness, so you may want to get that checked out.
The other issue with TV and eyesight is eye fatigue. “When you focus your attention on a TV for long periods of time you tend to blink less and your eyes get excessively dry. Combine this with not changing your focal point for many minutes or hours and you’ll start to feel some serious eye fatigue. The feeling may be as simple as dry, uncomfortable eyes or you may feel discomfort similar to a headache in and around your eyes. If this happens, the best medicine is a good night’s rest and an over the counter pain reliever” according to The Eye Consultants of Atlanta.
More concerning is the statistics around obesity in children. In Australia 1 in 4 children aged between 5-17 are overweight. “Not getting enough physical activity and spending too much time on sedentary activities such as watching television or other screen devices can lead to weight gain,” according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
In my humble opinion, a simple answer to avoid the physical effects of television is to put rules in place to manage the amount of television watched.
In our house, my little peeps earn the right for screen time (this includes television and other devices such as computers or ipads). Television is a privilege, not a right. There are maximum limits and they have set days allocated to watching the box.
We also encourage TV programs that are educational or inspirational. I find Go Noodle a great go-to screen session that gets the kids up and moving. It’s an app, not a TV show, but it’s screen time none-the-less.
Question 2: What effect does the content of TV programs have on your little peeps mind?
The more concerning question for me is what are they learning from the content they are watching on TV? I was horrified at the attitudes and behaviours modelled in early childhood cartoons such as Peppa Pig. Wow! Talk about spoilt and belligerent behaviour. Maybe I happened to see a particularly bad episode, but Peppa’s petulant ‘Tudes weren’t going to become a thing in our household. And hence the little pig was banned.
I understand kids need to learn about different types of people and behaviour, and the good old villain and hero story plot is a popular way to model both the goodies and the baddies. What concerns me is how some of the modern TV shows popularise some ‘Tudes and behaviours, and how little peeps easily model what they watch.
I guess the key here is to be mindful of age-appropriate content. A quick google search can help you out. Here’s a list I found that provides a range of kid-friendly TV shows by age (caveat: I haven’t watched all of these so feel free to make your own assessment). ABC Kids is great for the littlies, but again make your own judgement and choose the show/s that you prefer.
Quick tips for TV choices
When you first introduce shows, watch an episode with your little peeps to make sure it’s appropriate and you’re happy with the content. Talk to your little ones about the characters and the story.
Decide your boundaries around television watching: what, when and how long. You may also want to give your little ones a range of programs to choose from as opposed to letting them choose anything from the prolific and uncensored TV menu.
Implement a When / Then strategy: When you’ve tidied up your toys and completed your homework… Then you can watch one show.
Reserve the right to change the choice list at any time.
Stick to your rules: The TV can become a slippery slope if you waiver and begin to bargain or negotiate. Having set rules helps everyone understand the allowances and expectations.