The TV is a top rate baby sitter. It can keep an energetic youngster quiet and immobile indefinitely. Seeing an escape, a harassed maid is temporarily released from her ward. A daily dosage of this exercise will create a habit which could be so entrenched that "nobody can tear the child away" anymore.
"Our two-and-a-half year-old son is addicted to TV. He spends all his waking hours in front of the tube. He even takes all his meals there. Nobody can tear him away from it. How can we wean him away?"
"I have a three-month-old baby daughter. She has become very alert and responsive to sights and sounds. I observe that she gets attracted by TV commercials. How much exposure should I allow here? I have heard of TV addiction among children. How do I prevent this in my daughter?"
Just like any household appliance, it can be overused and abused. The first case is an example. Let us try to analyze how the child reached that point. The second case is a good starter.
Babies respond to sounds and sights very early in life. Recent studies show that a newborn can discriminate visual patterns. Black and white figures attract them most.
This explains how they pay attention to human faces. In the beginning, they cannot tell one face from another. But as time goes on, they get to know familiar features and respond positively.
In the same token, sounds and odors register in their brain. Babies are very sensitive to sounds. Footsteps, laughter, music, noises, talking and singing appeal to them.
At around two months, you will see the beginning of efforts by your baby to "talk" back. He coos, follows you with his eyes, smiles, gurgles, or cries to call your attention.
In the light of this growth pattern, wise parents prepare themselves by anticipating each stage of development. Once the infant responds to television commercials, it is time to keep him away from the instrument. Exaggerated? Overreacting? By no means.
In many households, maids look after the child. They habitually carry the child around, watch TV with the infants on their lap, unaware that he is absorbing all the sights and sounds emanating from the idiot box.
The TV is a top rate baby sitter. It can keep an energetic youngster quiet and immobile indefinitely. Seeing an escape, a harassed maid is temporarily released from her ward. A daily dosage of this exercise will create a habit which could be so entrenched that "nobody can tear the child away" anymore (case No. 1). The situation is more prevalent in homes where both parents are out at work the whole day. How many parents are aware that their youngsters are watching too much TV? Before they know it everyone is hooked hopelessly.
Television presents new problems of management in the home. How much time should children be allowed to watch? How can parents shut out programs not good for them? What is television doing to their eyesight or to their homework? Answers to these questions depend on the age, size of family and household situations.
1. Age: Infants from two months should not be parked in the TV room. Baby sitters should keep strict rules about it.
Preschoolers, ages two to five, should be encouraged to engage in active play outdoors. Running, riding, climbing objects, exploring the world around, are definitely superior to sitting glued to the TV screen.
Programs should be carefully selected, limiting them to child-friendly programs. Children of school age can take longer session and stronger fare. Programs that are too exciting, scary or upsetting are best shut off to protect sensitive and high-strung youngsters.
2. Size of the Family: With several children in the family, adult intervention is needed. Arrange a schedule whereby there is a fair sharing of the instrument. The younger children may have a chance to enjoy their programs and be occupied elsewhere while the older children have their turn at the dial.
3. Homework: Parents may help in budgeting TV time in relation to the youngster's homework and other activities out of school. The schedule should be arranged with their cooperation so that they do not feel that they are being regimented. Flexibility should be the rule to allow for occasional changes.
Teacher's opinion varies as regards the quantity of TV watching and its effect on children's homework. Some believe homework suffers; others find that they increase children's alertness and broaden their background of information. All agree, however, that too many late evening hours may send the children to school too sleepy and ill-prepared to do satisfactory work.
4. TV and Eyesight: In the absence of studies on the question, the best available advice is:
- Children should not sit too close to the screen
- Room should be slightly darkened
- Children should look away from the screen at intervals
- Insist on breaks in their viewing
Just like many avenues towards intellectual growth, TV viewing calls for regulation. Parental guidance plays a distinctive role in its proper management.
We must not leave the task in the hands of our household help because they, too, have their own favorite program.
So be ever watchful. Lock up your sets, if you must.