Children of today have greater access to television than ever before. The American Academy of Pediatrics (2011), in its policy statement entitled Media Use by Children Younger Than 2 Years, reported that at present, 90% of parents said that their children younger than 2 years old watch some type of electronic media, and that by the age of 3, almost one-third of children have a TV in their bedroom.
The report also included results from a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2006 of family media use which mentioned that 40% of parents watch with their child always, while 28% watch with their child most of the time. In addition, the parents explained that they avoided co-viewing because their child’s media time is an opportunity for them to be involved with other tasks.
The reality is that parents cannot supervise what their children watch 24/7, which leaves the young ones very vulnerable to uncensored and possibly harmful content. So what happens now to kids’ TV time? We asked a few for tips and advice on what can be done in order to effectively manage a child’s television/movie viewing.
1. Establish rules and limits. Jonathan Lansangan, a management training consultant and dad to 13-year old Raphael, pointed out that he puts limits on the length of time that his son watches television. Jill Lotho, mommy to 3-year old Matteo and 1-year old Mauro, shares that she first checks the programs that she allows them to watch and makes sure that they are educational in nature. Clarissa Ligon, a college professor and mommy to Luis, 3, suggests that parents should only watch age-appropriate movies/shows with their children. “I only let them watch films that are made for kids”, Maiia Lagmay, entrepreneur and mommy to 2-year old Andres, reiterates.
2. Do your homework. Lagmay shares that she goes to trusted websites for movie recommendations, and reads parenting magazines, blogs and talks to fellow moms. Luchie Joson, mom to 2-year old Bettina, shares that she chooses the shows that her daughter watches and she does this by reading reviews on the internet and magazines. Joson adds that she also visits the malls to look for DVDs appropriate for her daughter. Lotho notes that she consults with her pediatrician-friend if she has any concerns.
Ligon suggests that parents should not only read but also ask feedback from fellow parents. “Reading recent research and exchanging stories and ideas with friends are usual stuff we do to making ourselves better at parenting and in guarding against the ill effects of popular media”, Lansangan points out. According to Nina Cruz-Caparas, mommy to 2-year old Cody, she makes sure to watch a show first and Googles it before she lets her child watch it.
3. Expose your children to other forms of entertainment. Lotho shares that her children are not addicted to TV because she exposes them to other forms of entertainment. Although it is a challenge, she believes that is still possible to look for alternatives. “When a child is used to reading books that entertain and educate, spends time with parents and siblings, engages in play with peers, does sports (if old enough to do so), does arts and crafts, and is exposed to travel and has appreciation for nature, there will be very limited time left to watch TV”, she explains.
4. Watch with your child. Lagmay shares, “My husband and I make it a point to watch an episode with them just to make sure that it’s the type of show we want to expose them to.” She adds that by watching with them, you will be able to explain things to them, not to mention that it becomes a family bonding activity as well.
5. Use it as a learning opportunity. Joson believes that parents hold the key when kids begin exploring the outside world, and finding out about it through media. “During their crucial years, we really have to guide them and tell them what is right or wrong with a show they’re watching.”
In conclusion, it is safe to say that TV exposure can be good or bad, depending on how much of it we allow and only if we're selective with the programs we allow them to watch. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents should have appropriate strategies in managing their children should they choose to expose them to electronic media or tv. However, it also stresses that “unstructured playtime is more valuable for the developing brain than any electronic media exposure”; thus, it would be wise to resort to some fun physical activities to while their vacation time away.
Reference: Council on Communications and Media (2011, November). Media Use by Children Younger Than 2 Years. American Academy of Pediatrics,128 (5), 1040-1044. September 11,2012, from pediatrics.aappublications.org