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Know What Your Children Are Watching

Our parents columnist reminds people to make sure they are in tuned with what their children are viewing.

Whether it is Sesame Street,  Spongebob Squarepants or Dora the Explorer, children today know what is on television. As parents, so should we.

I’m not going to go into the debate of TV watching vs. non-TV watching. But what I am going to do is suggest ways in which maybe we parents, including myself, can get our kids more involved in what they are watching and how they are watching it.

How can my child get involved in watching television you ask? Well, it’s a little more than letting them turn the TV on and find the channel. What I am saying is to have them explain why this is a show they want to watch, what purpose it has for them, and why this wont interfere with their life in a negative way. Not only will this enlighten us as to how our children view the shows they see, but it can also teach our children to really think and ask themselves, “Why do I watch this?"

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology has even stated, “Active parenting can ensure that children have a positive experience with television…With proper guidance, your child can learn to use television in a healthy and positive way.” 

The how our children watch television is the tougher part.

I think all parents at one time or another have used the television as a part time babysitter.  First of all, let me just say, we are all human. Let me reiterate: We are all humans who need time to ourselves now and then.

There…feel better?  But I digress. What I am saying is to become a “better” television viewer, our children should know how to watch TV. Many children watch TV and literally hyper focus into the program to the point of no return. The house could be on fire and they would not miss a beat of Patrick Star telling a joke to Spongebob. So, how do we avoid this? Some suggestions could be: 

  • Have your child stand up at each commercial and stretch
  • If there is an action occurring in the particular show, have your child mimic it from their seat (clapping, pretending to pull, jump, sing, rowing, etc.)
  • Do not allow your child to eat in front of the TV. This will avoid issues with associating snacking with TV watching. Let’s leave the days of the TV tray and TV dinner back where they belong.

As parents, discussing things with our children is always of great importance. If our children see anything that is out of their circle of normalcy, they will question it in their minds, and we as parents need to be in tuned with that and bring it out in the open. “No Johnny, you cannot fall off of a building that high and not get hurt.” If it were only that simple.

Nowadays, we might have to say, “Yes Susie, she is right, it is not nice to bully,” or, “No Peter, drinking is not allowed for any child.”

We also need to make sure the shows they watch are age-appropriate as well as time-appropriate. I can’t see a 5-year-old having much success after watching TV for three hours. So again, limiting time or even finding ways to earn time for TV shows are all excellent ways to have our children play a more active role in their television watching. And if they have had to earn that time, they will really see TV as a privilege and not a right.

Finally, there has been much press about the negativity of children and television watching.  In an article from Kids Health on how television affects children, Mary L. Gavin, MD.,  stated, “Of course, television, in moderation, can be a good thing: Preschoolers can get help learning the alphabet on public television, grade schoolers can learn about wildlife on nature shows, and parents can keep up with current events on the evening news. No doubt about it — TV can be an excellent educator and entertainer.”

I think she sums it up well. If used properly, and we allow for our children to be active in their television viewing, the world of television can be a fun, new, and exciting form of education, escapism and good old entertainment for everyone in the family.

linda March 02, 2011 at 06:26 PM
Parents must moniter what their children are watching on TV, and limit the time spent in front of it. Being involved, asking and answering questions, helping your children to learn from what they are watching takes what could be mindless cartoon watching and creates a learning experiance. There are wonderful cartoons for tots full of chances to learn. I also will say once in awhile the TV is needed as a babysitter. For brief periods of time and as long as there is positive porgramming on, your children can still be learning while being entertained!

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