Media Exposure - How much is too much?



Media Exposure of kids, through Television, Internet and Gaming devices, begins at a very tender age these days and the time a child spends wired in is alarmingly high. It is a well- known fact that long hours of exposure to various forms of audio-visual media on a daily basis may result in the children becoming inactive and dull while the violent content of many of the animated programs may make them aggressive and violent.


Research has proven that children who watch long hours of television have lower concentration and performance levels in academics, have little inclination for sports and social interaction with peers and have limited ability to imagine and create as opposed to those children who watch less or no TV. Childhood obesity and higher cholesterol levels are also associated with children who are couch potatoes.


So how much is too much? The AAP (American Academy of Paediatrics) discourages TV and other media use by children younger than 2 years. It also recommends a maximum of 2 hours of television viewing per day for children older than 2 years. Children under the age of 5 must ideally be watching TV programs in spurts of 30 minutes each since their attention span is much shorter.


How to Limit Children’s Exposure to Media?

While it may not be possible to ban all media use in the house, it may be useful to set some ground rules that can limit the children’s viewing time to reasonable levels;


- Set aside a specific time of the day as TV/ computer time and stick to it. The time should not be too close to the child’s bed time and it should not replace his outdoor playtime. Once a child is assured of his daily fix of TV/computer time, he is less likely to ask for it at odd times of the day.


- While on a family outing or in the car, hand out your iPhone or the iPad to the child as an exception rather than as a norm. Try engaging the child in other ways first.


- Keep gadgets and phones out of easy reach of children. It is a good idea to password-protect gadgets so that the child needs to seek permission and can be monitored for content and time. Similarly, make it a rule that a child needs to take permission before switching on the TV set.


- Create Screen-Free Zones in the house –Do not install TV sets in the children’s bedroom or in the dining hall and be firm that no one will carry the Nintendo or the iPad to the dining table.


- Keep the child busy.  A lonely child who has no other interests and no other activities to look forward to is more likely to end up on the couch. Cultivate your child’s love for reading from an early age; make sure there are lots of outdoor activities and plenty of play mates for him to be excited about. On a rainy day engage him with board games, story- telling and puzzles.


- Set reasonable limits and be flexible.  If you give allowance to the child, like easing off the limit on special days like birthdays or letting him earn more TV time in vacations, the child is more likely to accept your stringent terms for the rest of the days.


- Give the child the right to chooseA child is more likely to follow rules if he is allowed to partake in laying them down.  Let the child decide whether he wants to play more computer games or watch cartoons within the time limit set for him. Let him choose the programs he wants to watch from a list of recommended ones for his age. This ensures a win-win situation for both parties.


- Do not use TV viewing as ‘filler’ or as a child minder. This is a tough one for most parents. However, it is important that Television or other form of media should not be used in case there is nothing better to do, when the weather is bad or just because you want children out of your hair! TV viewing must be a specific purpose activity and the TV set must be switched off when the desired program is not being run.


- Practice what you preach! Last but not the least, as a parent you have to set an example. You cannot expect the children to adhere to your rules, if you are forever glued to the TV, the iPad or your phone. So dump the phone when your child is telling you about his day in school and don’t combine snacking with TV viewing!


The above tips will help you set reasonable limits for your child’s media exposure and ensure greater adherence from their end.



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