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On TV and Children

I had lunch with a group of ladies the other day. We were a multicultural bunch, coming from different countries and cultures from the US, UK, Canada, Germany, and Asia. We had several things in common though we all spoke English, we were all expats in Switzerland, and we were all moms of kids ranging in age one-and-half and five years old.

Somehow the discussion turned towards TV and I was surprised to hear how diverse our opinions and practices are in terms of TV times. To make a long story short, some moms think 1 to 2 hours of TV time per day for preschoolers are OK while 1 mom advocates total abstinence. I am sort of in the middle of the road, my 5-year old twins spend on the average, 20 minutes a day in front of the TV.

We all have our reasons to justify our TV policies at home. Mine is pure and simple: I’d rather that my kids move than sit quietly the whole day.

A review in the New York Times cited several studies showing the not-so-beneficial effect of the presence of TV in the bedroom of children of all ages, as follows:

  • Kids with TVs in their own bedrooms have an average viewing time of 21 to 30 hours a week.
  • Kids who have TVs in their bedrooms normally have lower scores on school tests and are more likely to have sleeping problems.
  • 70 % of the children with bedroom TV consistently performed poorly in maths, reading and language-arts tests.
  • Preschoolers with bedroom TVs are more likely to be overweight, most especially the boys.
  • Kindergarten kids with bedroom TVs tend to have more sleep problems and less “emotionally reactive”.
  • Middle-school students (12 to 14 years old) with bedroom TVs are twice as likely to start smoking.

The mechanisms behind the impact of TV on children’s health and school performance are not well-understood. However, distraction during homework time and disturbed sleep are direct effects of TV that result in poorer performance at school. More disturbing, however, is the fact that the presence of a TV in a child’s bedroom can suggest less than optimal parental involvement with the child. The NYT article estimates that half of the children in the US have their own TV sets in their bedrooms.

One of the ladies in our luncheon group declared she deserves some rest, even if only for an hour, and TV at the midday in the kid’s room gives her a well-needed break from her toddler and preschooler. I can see her point. Indeed, motherhood can be pretty challenging and we moms need a break to recharge. But this does not justify using the TV as a babysitter. It will tend to become habit-forming for mom as well as for the kids.

So how do I keep my kids busy with resorting to TV? They draw, they read, they play, they cut pieces of paper and literally turn the house upside down. And when do I get my break? I don’t. I simply put them to bed early, clean up, and have my well-deserved rest at night.

How about you? What are your house rules regarding TV?

Related posts:

Kill your TV?.maybe

TV is the Enemy

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