Every once in a while we are presented with facts on children’s exposition to TV that alert the parents: it is estimated that 30% of the kids turn on their TV as soon as they arrive home after school, and that they spend around 960 hours in front of the screen, and that only 25% of the shows they see are adequate to their age.
When we read these facts, we raise our hands to our head and wonder: whose fault is it? The networks’, the parents’ or our own children’s? Let’s not get hysterical yet and think twice… Let us, firstly, acknowledge that, as working parents, it is hard to keep an eye on kids all day long to check on what they are watching; secondly, let’s realize that there are a lot of broadcasting channels, and that makes it hard for us to control what they watch; and thirdly, we have to realize also that many times the TV is on only as “background noise” and the kids aren’t even paying attention to it.
We say this so that the activity of watching TV doesn’t turn into a reason for worries, but more in an exercise of responsibility. Truth is that there are also quality contents shown (award-winning series, children’s shows elaborated by specialists, breathtaking documentaries…).What we have to concentrate on is trying that our children are responsible and “selective”. We have put together a list of recommendations for that purpose.
We have to stay away from turning the TV into an object of reward or punishment. All of us have sometimes threatened our children with “not watching TV for a week if you don’t do your homework”. When we do this, we are involuntarily turning the TV into a reward.
We also should not turn off the TV or quickly change the channel when we see something that we consider inadequate for them. Talk to them and ask them if they really like it or what may they find interesting in that program. Try to make them see that there are other more adequate alternatives they can also enjoy more.
Try not to keep the TV on and “not watch anything”. If there is nothing to watch, or nothing interesting is on, we might as well simply turn it off. We can turn the radio on, give them a book, play with them or even go for a walk.
Teach your children to watch TV and commercials with a critic eye. Ask them what they think about what they are watching, if they actually know what some messages mean, or teach them how do commercial “work”.
Ask them about their likes in TV matters: which are their favourite shows or even what they would like to watch. This helps them have the feeling that watching TV is a family activity.
And, of course, do not forget that children also learn from us and our behaviour. We are their closest example and we also have to take care with what we watch on TV ourselves. Let us not be selective only as parents, but also as human beings.
Of course, there are many more pieces of advise that could be given, and more qualified people to give them. What we only want is arriving at a meaningful middle ground: not turning the TV into a babysitter, but neither into a monster.