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There is so much TV aimed at children that it's easy to think its okay for little babies and toddlers to watch it all the time. Much of it is billed as 'educational' so why shouldn't they tune in and watch it as much as they like.
A lot of research has been done on this topic. It shows that for babies under two, what they see when they watch television is a mass of colours moving about the place. They do not understand what's actually going on.
Research also shows that cartoons are often full of realistic violence and aggression even when they are animated and that this can make a child more aggressive themselves, making them familiar and unaffected by the idea of violence.
Watching TV can be addictive, the more they watch the more they want to see. It becomes the easy option to pull up a chair rather than do something more creative or interesting.
Time spent watching TV is not spent being active and doing healthy activities so it's not good for mental or physical well being.
Children that watch lots of TV may become antisocial, may have trouble adjusting to new environments and be less enthusiastic or imaginative when it comes to school.
However it's not all bad. There are some benefits that television can bring, if watched in moderation.
- It can teach basic skills, numbers, letters, sounds and good behaviour.
- They can see things that are not immediately around them, extending their experience: wild animals, foreign lands, history.
- TV can support other learning and reinforce what they learn at nursery or preschool.
- It does provide a little down time from physcial activity if they are tired, or after a long day at school.
- Unless billed specifically for preschoolers, watch programmes or DVD's before you show them to your child as there might be scary or sad bits you wish to keep from your child.
- Choose age appropriate programmes.
- Watch with your child so you can talk about the pictures or content together. Talk about the programmes after.
- Make rules about the duration and timing of TV watching and keep to it.
If in doubt, just go and do something more interesting outside!