Screen time has a decisive impact on all of us, but especially on our children. Having at least one television in the house is the norm, and with smartphones and tablets the situation has become even more problematic. What’s worse is, if you leave your child at the mercy of the television, they are very likely to get addicted to it and to develop a bad lifestyle because of it. On the other hand, if you totally stop your child from watching television at all, it would provoke them to do so, and they would look for opportunities when they can turn it on. Both of these ways are incorrect. So, you should choose the middle way. You should allow your child to watch television for some time, but at the same time, you should keep a control over what they watch and when they watch it. Here’s how you can go about it.
10 Tips to use television for positive child development
1. Not more than one hour of television in a day
To most of our parents, this might seem tricky. We all want our children to watch as little television as possible, but it isn’t that easy. It is hard to stop them when they want to watch more television as many times they are quite stubborn about it. Secondly, when you have something important to attend to, it seems that the safest option would be to leave your child before the television set. In both of these cases, television isn’t the main issue. The main issue here is poor management. You are neither managing your time properly nor your child’s time. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to overcome this.
First of all, in case there’s a television in your child’s room, remove it immediately. After that, you should maintain a time table in which you should give a special priority to taking your child out every day for at least for one hour. In case you are not available ask your spouse or anyone you trust to do so. Lastly, make sure that you finish all your important tasks when your child is in school. If that’s not enough, instead of leaving them in front of the television, build a play area for them preferably in an open space which is easy for you to monitor.
2. Choose programs that aren’t just educational but entertaining too
Let’s face it. If your child knows what all one can see on the television, they won’t agree to watching something purely educational. The mind of children is highly sensitive and imaginative. They find it hard to watch something that’s too dull, monotonous, and pedantic. Back in the days, that might’ve been a problem, but not anymore. Not only you have myriad choices on the television now, you have internet too.
Even when it comes to educational programs, you can just sit down with your child, lay all the options before them and try to find out what it is that they like the most. Moreover, for every Sunday, you can select a family movie that’s entertaining for everyone and informative too. Something that you can discuss once you are done with it. For example, environment related movies like Wall – E and Happy Feet would make great topics of discussions.
3. Watch the programs with your child
Don’t hand over the remote to your child too soon. Sit down and watch the show with them, and don’t leave them with it until you are sure that it doesn’t contain anything that your child won’t like. Remember, there’s one bad thing about television. No matter whether you are a child or an adult, when you are watching a program alone you tend to get into a zombie mood i.e. you don’t laugh, cry, or show any other reaction. You simply sit there staring at the television as if it were hypnotizing you.
Being there with your children while they are watching television is one way of preventing them from falling into zombie mode. Another thing you can do is you can keep asking questions. This would help your children in being more aware of what they are watching, and thus they would make the most out of their television viewing experience.
4. Don’t let your child watch TV while eating
Distracted eating or eating something while watching television makes your children more prone to obesity. Since their focus is on the screen in front of them, they tend to ignore the signals of being full that their tummy might be sending. This makes them overeat, and thus it might also result in an upset stomach. This is also bad for us, but it is worse for children. A healthy body is a constant source of pleasure and you wouldn’t want to deprive your child of it. So, simply pause or switch off the television when you are about to eat. From a very early age, you should teach your child how to eat mindfully.
5. Limit your own screen time
The problem with many of us is that we think that our children see only as much as we show them. We think that by simply telling that watching too much television is bad for health would be enough, but it isn’t. If you yourself are watching too much of television, this would give a wrong indication to your child. Either they would think that you are lying to them or they would think that it isn’t really that bad to be unhealthy. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that you practice what you preach. Your children would take you seriously only when they discover that you take your own advice seriously.
6. Don’t let your child watch anything violent or inappropriate
This goes without saying. Having a parental lock on your television, phone and other such tech gadgets is a must. Despite that, while watching a program if you encounter something, which you think isn’t appropriate for your child, either change the channel, forward the content, or simply switch off the television. Try do it in a somewhat sly manner so that your child doesn’t get too curious. And in case they ask you about ‘Why you changed the channel?’ or ‘Why you switched off the television?’ just say that you thought of something more interesting and then quickly divert their attention to something else.
7. Mute or switch off the TV during commercials
The purpose of advertisements is to make your child want something they don’t need at all. Your purpose should be to not let them achieve their purpose. Rather than handling a child bent on buying something absolutely unnecessary, you should simply prevent them from getting even a whiff of it by not letting them watch any advertisements. The best way is to mute the television during the advertisements and start discussing with your child what you just saw. And as far as buying stuff is concerned, you should try to find out what it is that your child needs and give it to them without their asking.
8. Weekday TV ban isn’t a bad idea
If your child has just two hobbies apart from school, they won’t get time to watch television. Once they are back home after engaging in all the activities, they are very likely to be hungry and tired. The only thing you have to take care of is preventing them from watching television late at night. Just put them to bed after dinner and they are bound to wake up early the next day. If they don’t feel asleep, read them a bedtime story. This is just one way you can carry things out to keep your child out of television’s reach. On the weekends you can compensate for all this by watching a nice children movie together.
9. Use screening and rating tools for programs
Be sure to check the ratings of a program before deciding to watch it with your children. Apart from that, keep the parent filter on both on your television and computer and in case your child got an opportunity to operate the gadget alone, make sure that you check the browsing history. Such monitoring might seem superfluous but it is necessary to keep your child’s sensitive mind away from the reach of anything that might disturb them.
10. Preview programs before watching them
We advise you to do this in your free time. You can go through a list of programs that every kids’ channels offer and watch their previews one by one. Out of these, select the programs that you think would be appropriate for your children. Then show your children the previews of the programs that you have approved and ask them to choose the one that they want to watch. In case, however, if you start watching all the previews with your child then there’s a probability that they might end up liking the very show that you don’t want them to watch. So, it would be best if you watch all the previews alone before you watch them with your child.