Saturday 19 February 2011


Should Babies and Toddlers Watch TV?

This has always been a dilemma for me, an unresolved issue tugging at the back of my mind, and I am sure for many parents too. I was more inclined to a total no TV approach, although I do allow some educational videos now, but still not TV. There can be some merits, but the cons may outweigh the pros, especially with excessive TV watching. Thus, we need to be careful here.

What does current research say?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids 2 and older watch no more than one to two hours daily. The AAP recommends that kids under 2 watch no television at all.

Popping in a DVD or turning on the TV can buy you a precious half-hour to cook or just catch your breath, thus, reserve turning on the TV for those moments when you really have to get something done instead of making it a part of your child's daily routine. However, whenever possible, bring your child into the kitchen with you. You have plenty of "ingredients" for fun inside the cupboards and drawers. Here are some ideas of joint activities in the kitchen, while you make food or prepare dinner.

Small amount of viewing is alright, but research shows that excessive TV viewing by the very young has been linked with slower language development, obesity, and attention problems. Research also shows that too much TV-watching can actually restrict your child's imaginative and cognitive abilities.

There may be some learning merits in the TV or video programme, but bear in mind that passive learning is always inferior to active learning. For example, it is better to bring the child to the zoo or the farm so that he can see the lamb, touch and feel its wool, hear its sound in real life, and in so doing provide a face-to-face interaction. This is active learning. He can also see a lamb on TV, but that is passive learning. Active learning will stimulate all senses of the brain - sight, touch, smell and hearing more powerfully. Children will commit the new thing they are learning to their longer term memory faster and more efficiently if it is presented to them using several sensory avenues.

A recent study looked at three groups: children with unlimited access to television, children with moderate access who watched without a parent, and children with moderate access who watched with a parent. The last group scored significantly higher academically than did the other groups.

The problem definition

The problem lies more with me than J. It is because it is so hard for me to strike a balance. Once TV is introduced, it can be very difficult to cut down or take it back - both for the child AND the parents. The child may likely be very insisting of wanting more. The parents may be tempted to use TV as a convenient baby-sitter, to the detriments of both the child and parents in the long term.

What should the strategy be?

In order to ensure that balance is achieved, here are the following principles to follow:

1. Introduce TV only when you have garnered sufficient determination and self-control

It must be introduced in a very determined and discipline way. Introduce by tiny amount, so that it will not become a habit. If I can't handle the discipline and self-control in this area, it is better not to introduce it at all.

The first DVD programme we allowed J to watch was when he was around 2 years old, because I wasn't confident of myself that I would be discipline enough and would not to get tempted to use it as a convenient baby-sitter.

2. Make a plan and have a fixed schedule

This is so that you get to monitor the amount of TV watching.Thus, this helps you to achieve better balance for this activity.

For J, it is my aim to limit it to 30 minutes per session, once or twice a week during Video Time.

3. Be very selective of the program

I am very selective of the type of programme. It has to meet two criteria: both fun and educational.

4. Watch with your child wherever possible

Watch with your child and explain what's going on in the show and in the commercials (and clarify the difference between the two). Encourage your child to ask questions and relate what's happening in the show to his own life. If you are watching a DVD, you can pause to discuss what's going on.

5. Pray

I can have a very good strategy and an action plan that support the strategy above, but my spirit is willing, alas my flesh is weak. I need to consistently bring it to God in prayers to give me wisdom, determination, courage and self-control to follow through with my plan and strategy. I am not fully there yet. This goes for many of the other areas of parenting and life.


Babywise and Preschoolwise

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