Baby center’s experts advices you about whether you should limit the amount of TV your child watches and how should you let her watches TV, etc.
Love it or loathe it, TV and video is a huge part of family life. With on-demand, downloads and streaming as well as hundreds of TV channels, our viewing choices are virtually limitless. However, most of us want TV to benefit, rather than hinder our child’s development. Here are some tips on how you can use TV to engage and enrich your child’s imagination.
Should I limit the amount of TV my child watches?
Common advice for children under two years of age is to allow no screen time at all. This is partly because babies and toddlers need lots of physical activity. However it’s also because children this young find it difficult to understand and make sense of what they are watching.
If you do let your toddler watch television, break it up into 10 minute or 15 minute slots. More than that and his little brain may go on autopilot.
Between the ages of two and three, limit your toddler’s total viewing time to an hour a day. This is because toddlers need to be active for three hours a day to grow healthily. Physical play contributes better to your child’s mental and emotional development than watching television.
Your child also needs the chance to interact with you and other children, so he can learn how to talk to and relate to people. All these opportunities are limited while watching television.
For children aged four and over, doctors suggest a limit of one hour or two hours of screen time a day. This includes TV, online viewing and computers, as well as interactive mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. This is also a common recommendation in countries like the US, Canada and Australia.
How should I let my toddler watch TV?
Rather than sitting down to watch whatever is on, carefully select the programme your child is going to watch. Record a series of short programmes that you know your toddler enjoys and switch the programme off as soon as it’s finished.
You could try watching favourite programmes on playback or YouTube with your little one. A five-minute warning that a beloved show is about to end will help him get ready for the next activity.
Choose calm, quiet programmes
Slower-paced viewing gives your child time to think about what he’s watching and absorb the information. Lots of random action, like the kind in action or adventure cartoons, will only confuse him.
Some research suggests that children who watch violence on TV are more likely to display aggressive behaviour. Stay away from scary programmes that may frighten your little one. Instead, choose simple shows that emphasise interactivity. Programmes that inspire your child to make sounds, say words, sing, or dance are great.
Should I watch TV with my child?
A recent study found that children who only had moderate access to TV and watched with a parent scored significantly higher academically than other children. Just being there says to your child, “What you do is important to me”.
Of course we all have moments when we have to use television or video as a babysitter. However, when you leave your child alone with a screen for a long time, you send a signal that you don’t care what he watches.
If you can, bring a basket of laundry to sort or some other task into the room when the TV is on, so you can work and watch. Then it becomes an activity the two of you can enjoy together.
Many experts agree that TV, computers and games should not be switched on during mealtimes. Having a meal together as a family is the perfect opportunity to have a chat about your day, and it helps to build good eating habits too.
If you tend to have the TV on in the background while you are feeding your baby or child, you may both miss the cues that he has had enough. It’s important that you’re responsive to your baby when you are feeding him.
How can I help my child get the most from TV?
Explain to your toddler what’s going on in the programme and during the adverts (and point out the difference between the two). Encourage him to ask questions and relate what is happening in the programme to his own experiences.
Record programmes in advance or pick out some of particular interest on YouTube. That way you can watch when you choose, and pause the programme to discuss what’s going on.
If you and your child have just finished watching a programme that focuses on a particular number, letter or topic, find a way to talk about it later. For example, when you’re setting the table you might say, “Hey, today’s number was three, and there are three places to set!” Or read and discuss a book that includes number concepts.