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How to manage your child's television time

Little boy watching TV
Do you worry that television viewing could be having a damaging effect on your child? We take a look at children's TV consumption and how you can manage it in a positive way.

There are 60 million TV sets in use in the UK today, and for most of us watching television is a part of our daily routine. However, recent research reveals that television has a negative effect on the play between parents and young children. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that when parents and children were in a playroom with the TV on, both the quantity and the quality of interactions between parents and children dropped.

The study found that parents spent about 20 percent less time talking to their children when the TV was on and were less active, attentive, and responsive to their kids. The researchers said that the results showed that assuming that telly only affects children if they are looking at it is wrong.

Managing your child's viewing

How many hours of television do you feel it is appropriate for your child to watch? Do you monitor what your child is watching? In a survey from Freeview, four out of 10 mums believed that between half an hour and one hour of TV viewing per day during the week and between one and two hours at the weekend is acceptable. Less than five percent think no television should be watched at all.

The research revealed that the most important approach to your child's television viewing is to ensure that they have access to a good balance of programmes, that they are not exposed to age-inappropriate content, and that you restrict television viewing times depending on your child's age and what you personally feel is suitable for your child.

Managing your child's TV consumption can include:

  • Supervised viewings
  • Locking adult channels
  • Screening the programmes a child may watch
  • Pre-recording programmes for a child to watch
  • Setting time-limits and routines of when the television can be watched

Children's screen time: make it positive!

The key to making sure that television is a positive part of your child's life is to ensure it is managed and monitored carefully. Don't just ‘plug in' your child. Get them interacting, enjoying, and learning from the television.

  • Balance television watching with other activities such as days out, outdoor activities, extra-curricular classes, family games, reading, and plenty of exercise.
  • Discuss your child's viewing with them – what have they learnt? What do they think about the programme? You could even try making up some games and activities to play around your child's favourite programme.
  • Turn the TV off during mealtimes.
  • Expand on a child's favourite programmes by encouraging them to connect what they see on the screen with the ‘real-world'.
  • Try to choose interactive programmes which allow children to participate in the programme by writing in, completing challenges or logging on to age-appropriate websites.
  • For older children, make ground-rules together about viewing times and the content they watch.
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