According to Maggie Rose Almoro, an early childhood educator, “A child raised TV-free won’t be missing anything as opposed to a child denied of play experiences and real-life interaction during this crucial time in their development,” she says. She further counsels to hold off TV viewing for as long as possible, until at least the child turns three.
But if you really cannot avoid putting your child in front of the boob tube, here are some guidelines for parents on TV watching:
1. Set time limits. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advocates that kids should watch no more than 1-2 hours of TV a day but children under two should not be allowed to watch at all. Break TV time into 15-minute segments.
2. Be strict. Keep TV viewing under control from day one. Set rules and never park a television in your child’s bedroom. If your child is to be left with a yaya, give specific instructions with regards to TV time.
3. Carefully select programs. Always preview shows before letting your child watch them. Choose educational programs young minds can easily absorb and digest. Avoid scary and/or violent shows that may affect your child’s behavior. Opt for simple interactive programs that will motivate your child to repeat words and sounds, sing and dance.
4. Provide transition time. Inform your child that a show is about to end 2-5 minutes ahead to help him anticipate the next activity.
5. Give alternatives. Keep books, toys and other non-screen entertainment on hand inside the TV room or suggest outdoor activities to entice your child to do other things than having his eyes glued to the tube.
6. Watch with your child. Never let the TV baby-sit. Consider doing tasks beside your child instead. Encourage him to ask questions as you explain what’s going on in the show.
7. Opt for taped programs, if possible. Buy or rent DVDs instead of letting your child watch television stations or even “kid-friendly” cable channels to eliminate the temptations of advertising. Young kids exposed to marketing messages are unable yet to process commercials especially when their favorite characters promote the products. Educate your child on the purpose of advertising by asking questions to help them put the idea of buying certain things into perspective.
8. Check program schedules ahead of time. If you have no DVD player, make sure you know what time your child’s show is and only turn on the TV during that time. Find other show listings that the whole family can watch that will help reinforce good values and are developmentally appropriate as well as nonviolent.
9. Follow up on concepts learned. If your child has just finished watching a show that teaches the alphabet, find a book or think of an activity that will reinforce learning.
10. Be a good example. Limit your own TV viewing time especially when your child is still awake to see what you’re doing.