We have all been told at one time or another by our parents, friends or loved ones, that we spend too much time in front of the TV.
But with the wealth of computer games, internet based distractions and more TV channels than you can shake the proverbial stick at, are children growing up today foregoing more strenuous physical and mental activities in order to gawp at pretty colours and moving shapes?
It is estimated that around two-thirds of infants and toddlers stare at some form of screen for 2 hours a day, while this raises to an average of four hours for those aged between 8-18.
Being raised in a digital environment
There is no doubt that the world is changing around us, and that our children will grow up in a technological environment substantially different from the one we did. In this way it is probably not a good idea to try and completely shield your child from the TV or the computer screen, as this is could be thought of as training for the world they will grow up into.
There are some positive effects of TV, internet and computer games on children:
- TV and internet can act as a window to the world, showing children the majestic diversity of nature and humanity
- Kids TV is a great educational tool
- Watching TV or films together is sometimes the most time a family spend together
There are a number of potential health risks that are open to your child if they view more than four hours of TV a day, an amount that is considered to be excessive:
- The inactive lifestyle that sitting in front of a computer or TV screen leads to means that your child is more likely to be overweight
- There is no escaping the fact that children will be exposed to violence, scary or aggressive behaviour which may well affect the way they view and act towards others
- Related to the above point is the fact that TV often acts to reinforce gender and racial stereotypes, as well as frequently showing risky behaviour
- A 2010 study by the University of Bristol showed that, compared to active children, those that spent a lot of time in front of a screen were more likely to have psychological difficulties and suffer from social awkwardness
- In a 2011 survey, 58% of children said that they had seen things they found personally troubling on the internet
How to get your kids to spend less time in front of a screen
So if you think that your child is spending too much of their precious childhood gawping passively, you should try some of the things below to see if they can help ease your child back into the sunlight.
Remember that a total amnesty is not the answer here, and that we are simply looking for moderation.
Try the following:
- You may need to alter your behaviour as well. Playing a computer game all night is really no different from spending all night as a family watching TV
- Set limits and stick to them, this includes treating social media communication in the same way you would a telephone conversation
- Get TVs and computers out of the bedrooms (even yours)
- Get a TV guide and plan what you are going to watch as a family
- Don’t have the TV on in the background, you are either watching it or it is off
- No more TV dinners!
- There is software available that can allow you to limit time on the internet
- Set up filters and anti-virus software
A large part of this is going to revolve around you engaging with your children. Take them to the park and have a kick around, play ‘I Spy’ instead of just switching on the in car entertainment and get a regular cinema night.
Does anyone have any tips that could be useful here?
James Duval is a self appointed expert in all things technology. When not helping companies protect their systems from gremlins and bugs, James likes to write blogs for the Car Audio Centre and to speed through the countryside on his motorbike.