The current generation of kids in the UK spend more time looking at screens than ever before. Between 24-hours kids’ TV programming, games consoles, laptops, tablets and smartphones, there are a lot of screens keeping a lot of children occupied.
Back in our day, young television viewers were catered for with an hours’ worth of children’s shows after school each day and an hour or two on a Saturday morning. These days, we have designated children’s channels, many of which broadcast all day and through the night, so obviously, there is going to be a contrast between the amount of time parents spent watching television as kids and how much our own children now watch. So while the amount of TV children were watching wasn’t much of a concern for our parents, it is something we need to be aware of.
How much television should children watch?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants under the age of two should not watch any television at all. Older children should not watch for more than two hours a day. However, we’d argue that sitting your toddler down to watch TV for a few minutes while you use the loo in peace is not the world’s biggest parenting crime and you shouldn’t feel guilty for doing so.
Arguments against watching too much TV
While quality television shows can be a great source of information and entertainment, there are arguments to suggest that too much TV is a bad thing. Young children are still developing and need time to play, socialise and explore the world around them. Older kids staring at the box for too long will lack the time for reading, doing homework and running around. Unsurprisingly, research has shown that kids who often spend more than four hours a day watching TV are more likely to become overweight.
There is also evidence to suggest children who view lots of television are more likely to display aggressive behaviour or indulge in risky behaviours that they’ve seen on screen.
Monitoring children’s viewing habits
The most obvious way to avoid this is to monitor your children’s viewing habits. Even if you can’t watch a show with them, make sure you know what the programme is about and that it’s age appropriate. Most households have more than one television and so kids can be watching from different rooms in the house. By only having one television in a communal area you’ll be more likely to know what, and for how long, your children are watching.
Maintaining a healthy balance
The trick to making sure your kids don’t end up watching too much TV is in making sure it forms only part of a day. There’s absolutely no harm in sitting down to enjoy a movie or favourite programme together as long as the kids then get up and go do something else. Most experts agree that televisions should be switched off during mealtimes and, of course, having a television blaring in the background is not helpful during homework times.
Obviously as a parent, it’s up to you how much television your children watch but if you’re beginning to feel uncomfortable about it then perhaps it’s time to cut back a little.