Is television a babysitter?
Sir: Many parents are enthusiastic about the role of television in their lives and how it affects their children though many also feel guilty about how much television their children watch. Parents may have the noblest of intentions and consider television and video programmes to be a rich source of education for their children but, in truth, they are primarily using the video screen as a convenient and cheap babysitter. Experts say that parents need to watch television with their children if it is to be a good learning tool. In this way, they can spark off conversation and introduce new words to their children. It also means children should watch programmes appropriate for their age and specifically designed for them. For the most part, young children watch television while parents take care of other tasks at home. According to experts, there should be no screen-media viewing at all for children under the age of two years and that for older children parents should engage in viewing and interacting with their children about the programme material.
I say that television should never replace the interactions young children need for healthy development. However, it can be used as a fantastic opportunity to bring favourite characters and shows to life beyond the box as well. Chatting about characters, making up stories and even acting out adventures can help parents develop their child’s language and communication skills. Television is a double-edged sword; it can cut children both ways. Used optimally and in a proper manner, television can be a great tool to enhance learning abilities in a child. It can even speed up the learning process. However, undisciplined and improper television viewing may be potentially disastrous for children. Healthcare providers should talk with parents about screen-media time as part of their health checklist and as part of efforts to educate parents about childhood development. Television does serve an important function for many parents but it has not been around forever.