Making the best decisions when it comes to television and screen time for kids

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Parenting is hard. With so much access to different forms of technology today, it’s pretty easy to set up your child in front of the television set when you need to get stuff done. While children can and do learn some basic concepts if they are exposed to educational programs, hands-on, interactive experiences are much better for their development.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a statement saying that children under the age of 2 should not have any access to screen media, such as television, cell phones, tablets, iPads, or video games. For kids over the age 2, the AAP recommends keeping screen time between one and two hours.

For parents who decide to let their children watch television, consider the following guidelines and rules.

TV doesn’t help the learning process

Yes, children are able to pick up certain concepts when they watch educational programming. However, they learn best when they have hands-on, interactive experiences with their caregivers. This includes touching, tasting, stacking, feeling, and problem-solving. There are certain television shows, such as Dora the Explorer, Clifford, and Blue’s Clues, that can have a positive effect on a child’s learning process, but shows like Barney & Friends and the Teletubbies do not. Remember, it is best to pick age-appropriate shows to watch.

Choose television programs in which the characters often talk to the children directly and try to engage them. For example, a show where a popular character asks the children watching to repeat a word or count with them can be educational. A strong storyline with a beginning, middle, and end is also a good choice if your child must watch television.

What parents can do

Talk to your child about the program they are watching. Have them explain what they liked and disliked about the show, their favorite characters, and how the story made them feel.

Don’t be afraid to answer questions. Kids are always learning and figuring out new concepts and ideas. They often need your help in making sense of the things they see on television.

Name the different things they see while they are watching television.

Don’t just sit there during the show. Dance around when the music comes on, hop like the rabbits on the show, and so forth.

Try to connect what your children view on television to their real life. For example, when you see the mailman coming, ask them if they remember the show with the mail carrier on it. You can then ask them if they would like to say hello to the real mailman.

When the television show is finished, turn the TV off. Use puppets to act out the story, or come up with your own story to act out.

Finally, you never want to use television as a sleep aid for your children. When you do, it makes it that much harder for them to fall asleep without noise or on their own. Additionally, young children still need the love and security that comes from their parents or caregivers giving them a calm, loving bedtime routine.