Welcome back to Best Case Parenting. Today, we hope to take on another common problem I hear from parents of young children….”my child just wants to watch TV!”
For a lot of parents out there, this is a real dilemma! The Television is a very attractive thing for young children! It is hard for a young child to resist the pull! What should we do as parents?
The short answer is: restrict your child to a few hours of TV at most (a day). Don’t have a TV in their room and find fun alternatives to fill their time.
In this fairly brief article, I want to give you some essential information about children and their TV watching, as well as giving real tips for how you can reduce the TV time for a child that is watching more than the recommended amount each day!
So, buckle up and enjoy the ride!
How much TV should a young child watch?
When we say young child, we are talking about preschool age children and above usually. This doesn’t include babies and very young toddlers. In fact, a lot of organisations recommend that any form of screen watching for a child under 18 months can have lasting negative effects. There is an excellent article HERE that talks about this more.
There have been various studies over the years, as you can well imagine. This article from The Telegraph sums up a few of them pretty well.
In this article, they point to a study done by several universities, including Newcastle and Queen Margeret Universities in the UK. This study came to the ultimate conclusion that children with over three hours of TV watch time a day are likely to have language problems. They even tracked this up to the early teen years, and found that the under 3 hours a day group were much better at expressing their ideas.
Later in the article, they also refer to another study that points to raised blood pressure for children watching TV for more than 2 hours a day!
What to deduce form this? Well, to be safe, a two hour a day limit on your child’s TV watching seems like a good compromise.
This should be a personal choice for a parent. I recommend doing your own research and making your own mind up.
Why is watching TV bad for my child?
The traditional way a child watches a TV is in a passive way. They simply stare at the screen and it turns into a one way form of communication, from TV to child. The passive nature of this activity means it is not good for a child’s development (both mentally and physically) if done for an extended amount of time.
A child needs stimulating and engaging activities, something which traditional TV watching certainly is not.
How can I stop them watching TV?
It will likely be hard to stop your child watching TV, especially if there are already accustomed to watching it regularly.
There are things you can do to help your child reduce their TV watch time.
Help your child find hobbies
Observe your child and see what they are interested in. Talk to your child’s teacher and ask them the same question. Using this information, you can introduce your child to suitable hobbies and activities that they may get involved in.
It is impossible to force a child to take up these hobbies or activities, so it is essential it is linked to their interests.
These activities will help keep your child away from the TV, and hopefully engaging in a more stimulating and active pass time.
For example, if your child’s teacher keeps mentioning the art work that your child produces, you may want to stock up on art supplies at home. Make it easy for your child to do fun art projects at home. You might even find a drawing club or pottery class for children in your local area.
Only have a TV in the main living space
It has become commonplace for modern houses to have TV’s everywhere! The kitchen, bedrooms, and even a young child’s playroom.
If you litter your house with Televisions, then you are adding to the temptation for your child to watch TV. There are very little barriers that are stopping your child from watching more TV.
So, de-clutter your house and ONLY keep a TV in your living room or whatever the main family room is. Certainly, don’t allow your child to have a TV in their own bedroom.
Find TV related activities
I have talked many times on Best Case Parenting about the importance of relating any activities you do with a child to something they are interested in. If you do this, they are likely to have an inbuilt desire to take part in this activity with little or no outside encouragement.
This can be related to the excessive TV watching situation easily. Simply do related (and fun) activities based around whatever your child is interested in watching on the TV.
If they love watching a certain cartoon, then you need to do your homework and learn that cartoon inside out! Buy your child books related to this cartoon. Draw pictures of the main characters from this cartoon together. Either buy or make your own figurines of the main characters, which can then be used to make stories about the cartoon together.
If the cartoon is about a character that explores different places, you can role play being this character with your child and explore some local places together. If there is an episode where a character goes to a theme park, you can ask your child if they want to be like this character and go to a theme park too.
I cannot list every possibility, but you get the idea. Be creative, and find ways that you can link outside activities to your child’s main interests when watching TV.
Can I make my child’s TV time better?
It is natural that a child would want to watch TV. It is a never ending source of entertainment for them. Rather than banning their TV use or restricting it massively, another approach would be to try and improve the quality of the time they are spending in front of the TV.
The problem arises when young children spend many hours staring at a TV with little or no interaction. This turns into a one way style of communication, and is not good for the development of their communication skills (among other things).
Therefore, you can greatly improve this by making sure that an adult is always watching TV alongside the child. That adult can talk to the child about what they are watching and discuss. Asking questions such as:
What are you watching? Is it good? Why?
What is happening? Why did that happen? What do you think will happen next?
Of course, don’t bombard your child with questions whilst they are watching TV! They will probably get annoyed very quickly and the whole thing would be a failure. Try to ask your questions in a calm and natural way. This is not supposed to be a test!
If the TV program is showing actions or dances, encourage your child to get up and copy what is happening. Again, the adult can do this alongside the child.
By keeping your child’s brain and body active whilst watching TV, you can turn this activity into a much more beneficial one for the child. It doesn’t have to be passive.
Finally, be a good role model for your child!
It is no use trying to help your child reduce TV usage, if they see another member of their family watching TV excessively too.
Young children observe what adults around them are doing, and they love to copy what they see. If your child is school age, I bet you see them copying a lot of the mannerisms and language used by their teacher (for example.)
So, like it or not, you are one of your child’s major role models. If you want them to watch less Television, you also need to make sure you are following similar rules. Save the majority of your TV watching until they are tucked up in bed!!
Our parting thoughts…..
Thank you for reading this article on helping your child watch less TV. The fact that you looked up this topic online, means you are aware there might be a problem. This is good, as some parents might just ignore their child’s excessive TV watching, thinking that it is at least a good way to ‘keep them quiet.’
I urge you to think of your child’s long term development, and try to implement some of the ideas we talk about here. If you can reduce your young child’s Television usage to the recommended two to three hours (or below) level, you are helping them have a good chance of future success.
We want our children to grow up as excellent communicators and forward thinkers! By giving their young brain more stimulation and engagement, we are giving them a good start!
TV is not evil! TV is not bad! Children just need it in moderation!
If you have any of your own experience with a child that just likes to watch television, we would love to hear all about it in the comment section below.
It’s always great to hear from others and know we are not the only ones with this problem!