Children and TV: Who’s in charge of the remote control in your house?

Many views are expressed with regards to the amount of time and influence that TV has on child development. Most of these views tend to be negative and range from claims that TV is the cause of supposed levels of increased violence in children to poor communication and reading skills.

During the winter months especially when the days are colder and evenings shorter it can be tempting to allow the children to spend more and more time in front of the “box” As there are no instructions provided when you become a parent there will be little advice regarding use for children in the packaging for your new 42 inch or for that matter the other 3 TVs in the house?

TVs (or for that matter Computers) should not by themselves be seen as a problem. The key point is how much time is spent on this activity and the content experienced by specific children in the family.

As a result some of the following suggestions for parents and/or grandparents on TV and use for children may be useful:

Language: This is not necessarily just about the issue of swearing as it is more about the type and tone of language that is being used. A good way of assessing this is to try not look at the pictures on the TV programme but spend a few moments with your eyes closed and assess whether the verbal content is age appropriate for your child. Children will often mimic what they hear……..are you happy with your child repeating some of the dialogue heard.

Values: This will obviously be something each family has to judge. However each programme will have some form of hidden message behind the pictures and words. These may have a powerful influence on children. Are you happy that the themes and values shown in the TV production are absorbed by your child?

Advertising: Are the shows on the particular channel being produced primarily as a way of influencing children to buy toys, specific video, music or fast food products. Though most channels both on terrestrial and on cable will have commercials some do not……….it is always possible especially when they are younger (or older) to say that the TV is “stuck” on a specific channel… while sitting on or having temporarily lost the remote control.

I think it is important to point out that some TV shows are really good for child development. These are not just specific children shows such Sesame Street and Blue Peter etc..but some more mainstream shows that show aspects of our natural world and its history. The recent BBC production on Anne Frank was quite brilliant.

The key will be balance both in quality and quantity and to be open minded with your own opinions on specific shows. It is not correct to say that everything on the Disney Channel is rubbish and that Dr Who is always wonderful. Children as adults will enjoy variety in their choice of entertainment

Parents and Grandparents should try to assess how they feel the TV content will affect each specific child and whether it is their best interests to watch certain programmes. It will be important to restrict and/or negotiate realistic amounts of time for specific shows and channels. This will encourage children to plan, be selective, savour specific programmes and not simply vegetate in front of that widescreen. It should be stated that TV can also be social. Spend time with your children enjoying certain programmes/films as a family.

In summary TV is not evil it is neutral, however it should be a part of and certainly not dominate family life………………”now what time is that match on”?

Nagero Natnif