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Cut Down Your Children’s TV Time To Avoid Developmental Hazards


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
By Dr. Bikkar Singh Lalli

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology unveiled its recommended limits on sedentary behaviour for youngsters aged five to 17. The key, according to the recommendations, is restricting screen time, which includes TV, recreational use of a computer and non-active video games, to two hours a day. Children and digital devices often go hand in hand. It is important to envisage the effects of too much screen time — and consider enforcing reasonable limits. Children, these days, are growing up in technological world where nearly everything is computerized. Children are on the internet and sending e-mail even before entering kindergarten.

Economists are trying to measure a home computer’s educational impact on schoolchildren in low-income households. Taking widely varying study routes, they are arriving at similar conclusions: little or no educational benefit is found. Worse, computers seem to have further separated children in low-income households, whose test scores often decline after the machine arrives, from their more privileged counterparts The North Carolina study suggests the disconcerting possibility that home computers and Internet access have such a negative effect only on some groups and end up widening achievement gaps between socioeconomic groups.

There is a theory called, “Cultivation theory”. It arose out of a concern that television was not necessarily affecting children right after they watched the show, but rather, it had a cumulative effect over time. For example, if an eight year old boy watches violent cartoons or plays violent videos games every day after school, this will eventually lead him to manifest more violent behaviour himself. Cultivation theory has vast implications for how the media affects sexuality in adolescents. Estimates are that on television alone adolescent’s view 14 thousand sexual references innuendos, and behaviours per year.

This does not include movies, music, videos, the Internet or magazines. By the time the child reaches the age of ten he or she has seen so much sexual media content that sex appears to be natural, acceptable, and even commonplace.

For an early healthy childhood development, it is imperative to start practicing pro-active parenting, that is, start inculcating a habit of self-discipline/control in children. The study, “A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety”, found that children as young as 3 who scored highly on measures of self-control were less likely than lower-scoring children to develop common physical health problems, abuse drugs, experience financial difficulties, raise a child in a single-parent household, or be convicted of a crime as adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting a child’s use of TV, movies, video and computer games to no more than one or two hours a day. Too much screen time has been linked to: Obesity – children who watch more than two hours of TV a day are more likely to be overweight, one hour extra – 6%; Behavioral problems – children who watch excessive amounts of TV are more likely to bully, have attention problems, and show signs of depression or anxiety than children who don’t; Impaired academic performance; Less time for play and creative activities.

One needs great patience and tactfulness for dealing with Net-Generation. Some of the steps one can take are the following. 1) Eliminate background TV- it’s likely to distract your child from studies. If you’re not actively watching a show, turn off the TV. 2) Keep TV and computers out of the bedrooms. 3) Do not allow your children eat in front of the TV. Allowing your child to eat or snack in front of the TV increases his or her screen time. The habit also encourages mindless munching, which can lead to weight gain and eventually to obesity. 4) Set the rules for screen time during weekdays. Most children have some free time during the school week. Don’t let your child spend all of it in front of a screen. 5) Be a good role model – limit your own screen time – spend time with your children – make the games a family experience and chose games that encourage physical activities. 6) As a father spend time with your son. Research studies have revealed that a boy, who spends less time with his father, lacks social skills and can develop behavioral problems: do not allow your children to take cell phones or iPads to their bedrooms after dinner.

Children are our most valuable resource. We are obligated to develop and nurture this resource carefully. According to UNESCO – ECCE (Early Childhood Care and Education) Unit, Early childhood is defined as the period from birth to 8 years old. A time of remarkable brain development, these years laid the foundation for subsequent learning. There are five developmental domains for nurturing a child, are referred to as SPICE: Social – refers mostly to the ability to form attachments, play with others, co-operation and sharing, and being able to create lasting relationships with others; Physical – development of Fine (small) and Gross (large) Motor Skills; Intellectual – the process of making sense of the world around them; Creative – the development of special abilities creating talents – Music, Art; Emotional development and development of self-awareness, self-confidence, and coping with feelings as well as understanding them.

What are we educating hour children for – jobs, intellectual achievement, personal interest? The purpose should include preparing an individual for good community and corporate citizenship, social and cultural sensitivity. .“Happiness goes to the person who does not work for selfish motives. He works for the greater good of the greater number. Neither praise nor criticism can shake his self-conviction. He remains steady on the path of God”(Guru Granth Sahib).

Dr. Lalli is a Surrey-based writer and educationist. He is also a member of the UBC senate.




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