Today, children have more access to technology and screen-time than ever before.
Families watch television through their smartphones, tablets and electronic devices at an unprecedented rate.
However, researchers from New York University are warning that excessive television viewing impacts children as they prepare to enter school.
Research has revealed that excessive television consumption can lead to lower levels of school readiness amongst children aged up to 6 years. Fortunately, there are simple steps that can be taken to ensure screens become as educational tool, rather than a distraction.
“There are certain skills that are fundamental for school age children, including memory, reasoning and social intelligence,” explains Dr Ryan Harvey from House Call Doctor. “This research suggests that excessive television consumption can affect children as they develop important neurological functions.”
According to New York University, children who spend more than 2 hours watching television per day demonstrate lower levels of self control and emotional regulation. Researchers found these differences most noticeable amongst children from low socio-economic backgrounds.
There is also a strongly established connection between academic performance and the amount of television watched per day. Higher level TV consumers show less familiarity with letters, numbers and words.
“Research suggests that too much television can impact children’s cognitive and emotional development,” says Dr Harvey. “For this reason, experts recommend that children aged between 2 and 5 only watch one hour of television each day.”
What should a parent do? The good news is there are simple ways to monitor your child’s access to television content. These tips should be applied to all electronic devices, including smartphones and tablets. Here’s how.
Encourage your children to use their imagination.
When parents are juggling a busy schedule it can be easy to turn on the television. Encouraging your children to instead play imaginatively is a valuable alternative.
“When children use their imagination, they increase their cognitive development and creative learning. Best of all, when children use their imagination, they aren’t readily bored, which means that parents can catch a break in routine.”
Remove televisions and screens from the bedroom.
Removing the television from your child’s bedroom creates a calming space that is reserved for rest, rather than play. Smartphones and electronic devices are best used within the lounge room and common spaces. This allows family members to monitor the content being viewed.
“Creating boundaries around your child’s TV consumption may be challenging at first. Consistency is the key to establishing healthy habits. Access to the television and other screens should be used in limited amounts, to incentivize and reward good behaviour.”
If in doubt, try an educational TV program.
The reality is that children today have greater access to television content than ever before. YouTube, Facebook and countless other devices have all brought screens into our homes at a rapid rate.
Numerous apps allow parents to regulate the TV programs their children watch, and to ensure there are educational benefits involved. ABC Education also has a helpful list of television programs online, that focus on developing skills in science, language and mathematics.
“Educational programs promote cognitive growth and skills development. Choosing a television program that suits your child’s age group and interests will also promote learning and creativity.”
About Dr Ryan Harvey.
Dr Ryan Harvey is a general practitioner, highly experienced in paediatric care. Dr Harvey has provided medical care to children and families in remote overseas communities and various emergency hospitals. He is currently the Deputy Clinical Director at House Call Doctor.