Image Credit: Jens Kreuter
Parents often seem to be in society's firing line at the moment, and one particular area of criticism is that we let our children watch too much television. With whole channels devoted to children's programmes with constant output, it is difficult to keep a lid on the amount and type of programmes watched, but can television also be beneficial to our children?
Rest assured, I am not condoning letting children watch hours and hours unsupervised, or the use of television as an "electronic babysitter", but can there be benefits to our children watching a reasonable amount of carefully selected material?
My 6-year old was recently so inspired by an episode of Kipper that involved a robot, that he collected together a pile of old cardboard boxes, yoghurt pots and foil trays, and designed and built his own robot.
This became the focal point for the family's make-believe play for several days (until the robot could stand no more play!).
Recently, the parents of a two year old I know with speech difficulties, were advised to watch a programme with the child, then turn off the television, and talk through what had happened, in order to stimulate discussion. I am sure that my children's articulacy was helped enormously by small daily doses of the Teletubbies!
Furthermore, I can remember as a child being so moved by what I saw on Blue Peter, that I cleared out my unwanted clothes and toys and took them to a bring and buy sale for Africa.
I can still remember the impact those foreign reports had on me. I saw and understood things that broadened my horizons and still influence my attitude towards charity today.
The most reluctant reader can often be tempted to read a book if it involves characters they are familiar with on television or films.
The ideal for children is that parents monitor and supervise the extent and content of what is being watched. Some experts recommend no more than an hour a day of television that is good quality, age appropriate, and is watched with the parents, followed up by discussion with the parent.
That way, we can all enjoy and benefit from television, guilt- free!
©Alex Freeman 2004
About the Author: Alex Freeman is a freelance writer specialising in parenting and family topics and can be contacted via eParenting.