TV time has long been a point of contention in modern day parenting. It's one of the most convenient devices that keeps boredom away for both adults and children. As we all know, not all TV content are appropriate for all audiences as well. Recently, a study conducted by a graduate student at Iowa University, revealed that excessive screen time, whether on the TV or computer, negatively affects the attention span of a child.
Edward Swing, the graduate from Iowa University, compared kids who watched TV or played video games for less than two hours a day (the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics for children two years and older) to those who watched more. "Those who exceeded the AAP recommendation were about 1.6 times to 2.2 times more likely to have greater than average attention problems," he said.
In the same article on Healthday, Dr. Dimitri Christakis, the George Adkins Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle, says that "ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder] is 10 times more common today than it was 20 years ago." He says "although it is clear that ADHD has a genetic basis, given that our genes have not changed appreciably in that timefrahere are environmental factors that are contributing to this rise." He and other experts point to excessive media as a factor. He advises parents to manage their kids' media consumption appropriately.
Set limits. Limit your children's use of TV, movies, and video and computer games to no more than 1 or 2 hours per day. Do not let your children watch TV while doing homework. Do not put a TV in your children's bedrooms.
- Plan what to watch. Instead of flipping through channels, use a program guide and the TV ratings to help you and your children choose which shows to watch. Turn the TV on to watch the program and turn it off when it is over.
- Watch TV with your children. Whenever possible, watch TV with your children and talk about what they see. If your children are very young, they may not be able to tell the difference between a show, a commercial, a cartoon, or real life. Be especially careful of "reality-based" programs. Most of these shows are not appropriate for children.
- Find the right message. Some TV programs show people as stereotypes. If you see this, talk with your children about the real-life roles of women, the elderly, and people of other races.
- Help your children resist commercials. When your children ask for things they see on TV, explain that the purpose of commercials is to make people want things they may not need.
- Look for quality children's videos and DVDs. There are many quality videos and DVDs available for children. Check reviews before buying or renting programs or movies.
- Give other options. Watching TV can become a habit for your children. Help them find other things to do like playing; reading; learning a hobby, a sport, an instrument, or an art; or spending time with family, friends, or neighbors.
- Set a good example. As a role model, limiting your own TV viewing and choosing programs carefully will help your children do the same.
- Express your views. When you like or do not like something you see on TV, make yourself heard. Stations, networks, and sponsors pay attention to letters from the public. If you think a commercial is misleading or inappropriately targeting children, write down the product name, channel, and time you saw the commercial and describe your concerns.
- Get more information. The following resources can provide you with more information about the proper role of TV in your children's lives:
- Public service groups publish newsletters that review programs and give tips on how to make TV safe for you and your child.
- You can ask the parent organization at your child's school.
- Parents of your child's friends and classmates can also be helpful. Talk with other parents and agree to enforce similar rules about TV viewing.
Image of kids watching TV from Flickr.com/mikewebkist.