Children's TV Habits
Oregon State University Extension Service
spend more time watching TV than in any other activity except sleeping.
*Preschoolers spend more time in front of the TV than it takes to
get a college degree.
*By the time they graduate from high school, most children will
have spent 15,000 hours watching TV, compared to 11,000 in school.
*You can learn a lot in 15,000 hours. Next to parents, TV is the
most influential teacher most children will have. Children learn
from TV all the time. Programs don't have to be "educational"
to teach. What children learn from the "flickering blue parent"
can either interfere with or enhance their growth. The choice is
up to you.
Most programs children watch are meant for adults. But children
don't have our broad experience with the real world. For young children,
TV is the real world, even when it differs from their own values
believe what they see on the screen. They can't always tell the
difference between what is real and what is make-believe, and this
can confuse and mislead them. In some cases, the consequences are
more severe. Children have been known to hurt themselves and other
people by imitating what they have seen on the TV screen.
can hurt children in other ways. We know, for example, that children
who watch a lot of TV can become passive. Children need to do things
in order to grow. When they spend a lot of time in front of the
TV, they lose chances to be creative, use their minds, and develop
their motor skills.
parents and other experts on children worry about some of the "hidden"
messages of TV. They fear that some programs teach negative attitudes
toward women and minorities. They are concerned about the desire
for toys and sugary food that TV commercials create in their children.
And, of course, the mounting evidence on the relationship between
TV violence and violence in our society is disturbing to us all.
But TV is not all bad. TV can also be a window on the world. It
can broaden children's knowledge and interests by introducing them
they've never seen
Places they've never been
People they've never met
Things they've never done
TV also can teach children skills such as reading, counting, spelling,
and problem-solving, and healthy attitudes toward themselves and
self-control, and courage are among the positive behaviors children
can learn from watching TV.
Television is here to stay. It is an extraordinary invention that
can enrich children's lives--or stunt their growth. It all depends
on how you as parents guide TV viewing in your home.
is no need to go to the extreme of forbidding any TV viewing in
your home. You may decide, though, to cut down on the amount of
time your children watch TV. Or you may want to be more selective
about what they watch.
other extreme--using TV as a babysitter--isn't a good idea either.
Instead, make TV viewing an active experience for your children
aware of what your children are watching.
Plan their viewing.
Talk to them about what they watch.
Follow up TV viewing with active experiences.
For better or worse--the choice is up to you. Television can be
a rich learning and social experience for your children. With a
little planning, you can change what might be a solitary experience
into a chance for family members to learn and draw closer together.
To add a healthy and human dimension to TV viewing in your home,
try some of the following ideas.
out what your children are watching. Watch programs with your children
whenever possible. If you can't join them, let them know you're
there to talk about a program or answer questions.
them what they think about different shows and encourage them to
ask questions. Don't be afraid to express your own likes and dislikes.
about issues that come up on programs, the difference between make-believe
and real life, TV characters and how they are like or unlike people
you know, and how violence can hurt people.
their TV menu. On a daily or weekly basis, go over the TV Guide
or a local program listing with your children and select programs
for viewing. If they want to watch a show you think is inappropriate,
explain what you don't like about it. Be gentle but firm in enforcing
them to watch a wide range of programs.
them with many other activities.
TV viewing with active experiences. Encourage children to draw or
act out what they saw. Have them make up a story about one of their
favorite programs. Type it up and let them illustrate it.
them write letters to stars, stations, and sponsors, asking questions
and expressing opinions.
Play games to increase their language skills. For example, look
for a new word each day, or think of programs and characters that
begin with different letters.
Follow new information and interests with books and field trips.
Think up games like describing a TV character and having others
guess who it is, or imagining what certain characters would do if
they appeared on different programs.
With older children, talk about how TV shows are made and produced.
If possible, visit a TV studio or arrange for children to participate
in a program.
Of course, even while building on the benefits of TV, you can't
ignore its negative aspects. When you see something you don't like,
write a letter to your local station, a TV network, the press, your
Congressional representative, or a group working for better programming
for children. Or start your own group. Many local groups, like Action
for Children's Television, have been influential in causing better
programming for children on both local and national levels.
from a University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service publication
and adapted for use in Oregon by Cindee M. Bailey, former Extension
child development specialist, Oregon State University.
publication was produced and distributed in furtherance of the Acts
of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Extension work is a cooperative
program of Oregon State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
and Oregon counties.
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