Television - Is it a good baby-sitter?
Television is one of the most prevalent media influences in the kids’ lives. Many TV shows are specially designed for the kids and are marketed as educational programmes at an enticing pitch. Many parents are happy to leave their kids with these shows, because these shows act as good baby-sitter that can entertain their babies when they are busy with their everyday work. Many parents think that this is a ‘quality time’ and do not feel guilty. In some houses, TV is perpetually on, even when nobody is watching. Usually, parents and caregivers use TV as a substitute to babysitters and buy videos that they think can make their kids smart.
As watching of TV has lot of impact in the lives of the kids, majority of experts think that TV/Video driven culture has bad effects on children and may prevent them from being smart. We have captured some of the negative impacts that have emerged from various studies and researches...
- A child learns a lot more efficiently from real interaction with people and things, rather than things she sees on TV / Video screens. The TV viewing actually steals time from activities that develop the brain by interaction with other people and playing. In fact, TV provides no educational benefits to the kids under the age of 2 years.
- The TV viewing also takes away the time that the child needs to develop skills, like language, creativity, and socials skills. These skills are developed in the kids in the first 2 years, which is a critical time for brain development, through play, exploration, and conversation. For example, the passive listening to the TV does not help in developing / improving language skills of the kids. This skill is developed by interacting with people, when talking and listening is used in the context of real life.
- The TV viewing makes the kid a passive spectator, where he /she is simply listening and not reacting or responding, as the kid would do with the human beings. This situation prevents him from exercising initiative, being intellectually challenged, thinking analytically and using his imagination, thus numbing his mental faculties.
- The children, who watched TV as babies, are less able to recognize letters and numbers by the time they go to school. The study shows that watching TV before the age 3 delayed a child’s ability to develop language skills. This may be because babies are wired to be active and not passive learners.
- The TV viewing takes away time from reading and improving reading skills, through practice ( Comstock,1991). Kids watching cartoons and entertaining TV channels during pre-school years have a poorer reading skill when they reach the age 5 years (Macbeth 1996). Such kids are also less likely to read books and print media.
- The research also shows the negative impact of background music of TV on kids. The kids, who are bombarded with the background music in their homes, have trouble in paying attention to the voices when there are also background noises.
- The kids who watch lot of TV have trouble in paying attention to their teachers because they become accustomed to fast paced visual stimulation on TV. Since such kids watch more TV than talking to their family, they face difficulty in adjusting from being visual learners to aural learners (learning by listening). They also have a shorter attention span.
- School kids, who watch lot of TV, tend to work less on their home work. If they do their homework with the TV being on in the background, they tend to retain less skill and information. If they lose sleep because of TV, they become less alert during the day and this results in poor school performance.
- The TV exposes the kids to negative influences and promotes negative behavior, since TV shows and commercials usually show violence, alcohol, drug uses and sex in a positive light. As the mind of a kid is like clay and impressionable, such exposure determines how he sees the world and thus affects his grown-up behavior.
- The kids watching too much TV usually happen to be overweight, as they often snack on junk food during this period. They are also influenced by TV commercials to use such unhealthy food. Their physical activities like jumping, running, also get curtailed, slowing their metabolism and non-burning of calories. This tendency in kids may adversely affect their health and athletic ability and make them less muscularly fit.
- Research also shows a link between total screen time and retinal artery width in children. Kids with lots of screen time were found to have narrow artery in their eyes, which may also indicate heart risk.
- Many TV shows and videos geared to kids are actually teaching wrong things. They distort reality with their cartoonish and unnatural depiction of the world.
- A child who watches more than 2 hours of TV per day by the age of 2 years is more likely to increase TV viewing hours by the age of 6 years.
However, TV viewing has some advantages as well and many experts believe that TV is not all that bad, if it is watched in moderation and programme selection is done in a proper way.
- Some TV shows are good tools to educate, inform and inspire the kids. It can be more effective than the books and audio tapes in teaching the kid about various processes, like how a plant grows or how to bake a cake.
- Research shows that kids who watch educational and non-violent programmes do better in reading and math tests than those who do not watch such programmes.
- The kids, who tend to watch informative and educational TV programmes as pre-schoolers, tend to watch more such programmes when they get older. They use TV effectively as a complement to school learning. On the other hand, those who watch more entertainment programmes as kids tend to watch fewer informative programmes when they get older.
- Pre-schoolers, who viewed educational TV programmes, tend to have higher grades, are less aggressive and value their studies more when they reach high school.
- Kids can explore places, animals or things which they may not be able to see otherwise, e.g., some kids may not be able to visit a giraffe in the wild. There are many such educationally minded TV shows that allow viewers to see footage of nature, animals, society and other people.
- Finally, a little entertainment TV may also, perhaps, be a source of relief to kids who are stressed or are in pain. Watching entertainment and cartoon channels may have a soothing and pain killing effect on such children.
Our Point of View
- Kids under the age 2 years should not watch any Television, including videos, video games and computers.
- Kids older than 2 years may watch TV, but no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programmes.
- It is important to monitor the contents of TV programming and set viewing limits so as to ensure that kids do not spend too much time parked in front of the TV.
- The parents should help children in understanding the contents of the TV programmes. For this, the parents should choose appropriate programmes and watch these programmes with their kids. They should also discuss what they see together.
- It is to be realized that the content of the TV programmes is the key, as high quality educational programmes can have positive effects.
- The parents have to be role models to their children, as the amount of time a kid spends on watching TV is closely related to the time his/her parents spend on watching TV. This greatly helps in limiting the TV viewing time by the kids.
- Lastly, the TV should be kept out of the children’s room to achieve the desired result.