Switch off the television set
The box can stunt your child’s development so use it sparingly
WHAT RESEARCH SHOWS
One of the leading academics in this area, Professor Dimitri Christakis from Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington, has conducted an extensive review of 78 studies published over the last 24 years.
His key finding is that the studies indicate that watching TV programmes or DVDs designed for infants actually delays language development.
For example, a 2008 Thai study published in the journal Acta Paediatrica found that if children under 12 months found that if children under 12 months watched TV for more than two hours a day, they were six times more likely to have delayed language skills.
Another study found that children between seven and 16 months who watched baby programmes on DVDs knew fewer words than children who did not.
Infants as young as 14 months will imitate what they see on a TV screen, but they learn better from live presentations. For example, one investigation found that children learnt Chinese better from a native speaker than they did from a video of the same speaker.
Excessive TV can be a factor in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
A study of 1,300 children conducted by Prof Christakis in 2004 found that the amount of TV a child is exposed to between ages one and three has a direct effect upon later attention problems. Watching TV, in other words, can shorten attention spans.
The study found that a child who watched two hours of TV a day before the age of three would be 20 per cent more likely to have attention problems by age seven.
Why does TV have such a negative effect on children?
Prof Christakis explains that it exposes children to flashing lights, scene changes, quick edits and auditor cuts which may overstimulate developing brains.
Things happen fast on the TV screen so children’s brains may come ot expect this pace, making it harder to concentrate if there is less stimulation.
In other research, he and his colleagues looked at the impact of early TV viewing on the cognitive development of those at school age. They found that children who had watched a lot of TV in their early years did not perform as well when they underwent tests t check reading and memory skills.
A separate New Zealand study discovered that those who watched the most TV were the least likely to go to university and get a degree.
It monitored the TV habits of 1,037 children aged between five and 15 in 1972 and 1973. When it was finally published in 2005, it tracked the educational achievements of the same children.
The study found that the 7 percent of children who watched the box for under one hour a day were the most qualified by the time they were 26.
But shockingly, the over 20 percent who sat in front of the TV for more than three hours each day ended up doing the worst at all academic levels. Most failed to get high school certificates, trade diploma or degrees.
The researchers also discovered that although excessive teenage TV viewing was strongly linked to leaving school without any qualifications, earlier childhood viewing had the greatest impact on getting a degree.
At this stage, even bright children and those from well-off families who watch a lot of TV are less likely to go on and get a degree.
The researchers concluded that excessive TV viewing leads to poor educational achievement. It displaces homework and revision and takes up time, which would be better spent in more educational pursuits, such reading.
WHAT PARENTS CAN DO
If you child is under two, do not let him or her watch any TV at all, recommends the American Academy Paediatrics.
For older children, some TV is beneficial but parents should be selective and limit viewing time to no more than two hours a day. It is important for parents to familiarise themselves with the media ratings systems, so as to make good viewing choices for and with their children. Compare products, read reviews and choose wisely.
Check the age-appropriate level to see if a show contains violence, sexual themes and profanity.
Studies have shown that consuming media violence may desensitise children when it comes to real violence. Glamorised body images in the media create expectations about attractiveness, and some depictions of sex or substance use run the risk of normalising risky behaviour or illegal activities.
Do not hesitate to turn off the TV set or leave the cinema.
Where possible, parents should watch programmes with their children and talk about them.
Teach your children to deconstruct a movie by analyzing it and taking it apart so that they can look carefully at its components. This helps to empower them and ensure that they control the media rather than let the media control them.
Book -Elephant In The Living Room: Make TV Work For Your Kids by Dimitri A. Christakis, Frederick J. Zimmerman
Source: Straits Times
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