Limiting Television

Most children love watching television and, with so many channels and kids TV programmes on offer, it’s no wonder. But is TV watching a good habit to have, or should we be limiting the amount our children watch?

When you’re faced with an energetic young toddler with endless energy and are feeling frazzled, it’s easy to resort to the age old tactic of putting them in front of the TV or a DVD and leaving them to watch enthralled whilst you have a few moments of rest. Whilst using this tactic occasionally is unlikely to be detrimental, some experts believe it’s worth limiting the amount of TV your child watches.

The idea of limiting television goes for both young and older children. Research into TV watching has highlighted concerns that sitting in front of the TV for long periods at a time may contribute to obesity and discourage children from taking part in active pursuits, like playing sports. There’s also concern about what types of programmes are viewed, as children who have TV’s in their bedrooms may be able to switch it on and watch whatever they want. Studies into the issue of TV content, such as violence or scenes of a sexual nature, suggest that children could be influenced by what they see and it could have an impact on their behaviour.

Recent research published in the journal Paediatrics found strong evidence that children who spend more time watching television spend less quality time interacting with their family or carrying out creative play. Both of these issues are vital to a child’s development and missing out on them could have varying effects.

Useful Tips on Limiting TV

If you’re introducing limits on TV, it’s best and easier to do so from a young age, so your child grows up watching that amount and doesn’t crave for more (until they hear what their peers get to watch). It’s still possible, however, to introduce this habit at a later stage, although with teens especially, you may find yourself up against some degree of resistance!

If your children question why they can’t watch umpteen hours of cartoons like their friends do, or have TV’s in their rooms when everyone else does, sit them down and explain your views on TV watching. Lines like, ‘When you’re older, you can watch X amount of TV,’ or ‘When you’re X age, you can have a TV in your room,’ may work and help appease the situation. Graduating the amount of TV watched according to your child’s age is worth a try, so they at least get to see a bit more each year, but don’t give in to too much watching if you don’t agree with it.

If you want to limit how much TV is watched and the type of programmes your children see, these tips might help;

  • Set rules for viewing, so you’re all clear on how much TV your children can see each day and which programmes they’re allowed to view.
  • Check TV schedules in advance and decide what programmes you deem suitable for your children ahead of them being on, then stick to the schedule.
  • Don’t put a TV in your child’s room. Instead, all watch TV together in the main living room.
  • Set a good example with your own viewing. If you don’t want your kids to spend hours in front of the TV, don’t spend hours watching either!
  • Watch TV with your children. If you want to ensure the types of programmes they’re seeing are suitable then, where possible, watch with them to check.
  • Don’t rely on TV as a free babysitting service. Find other ways to provide entertainment for your child, such as creative play, reading, drawing or playing in the garden.

It might be hard to limit TV at first, but it can provide valuable time for doing other things, so why not give it a go?