In this environment many parents rely on television and other forms of media to help manage the household, entertain, and provide learning experiences for their children. However, there is growing controversy about media use among very young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend television use for children under the age of two. Child development experts worry that time spent with media may detract from time children spend interacting with their parents, engaging in physical activity, using their imaginations, or exploring the world around them.
Preschoolers are especially influenced by what they see in the media. Children of this age are not yet able to distinguish between fantasy and reality- the images they see on television or games may confuse and frighten them. They may also try to imitate what they see and perhaps injure themselves or others.
Following are a few tips to help parents make informed choices about media use:
- Set limits: Carefully monitor how much time your preschooler spends viewing media. If it exceeds 1-2 hours per day consider cutting back. View sparingly and selectively!
- Participate: Watch T.V. together and talk with them about what is happening. Answer any questions they may have and stress that cartoon characters can do things real people cannot.
- Plan: Decide ahead of time what programs your children will watch. Choose programming and other media that promote interaction and turn off the T.V. when the selected show is over.
- Monitor: Stay informed and aware of what your preschooler is seeing. Avoid games, shows, and movies that contain violence, offensive language, and scary images.
- Think: If your preschooler has a television, computer, or gaming system in his room-reconsider! It is extremely difficult to monitor media use if it is out of the general living area.
- Set an example: Children model the behavior of their parents. It is vital that they see us making appropriate media choices. If we spend our leisure time passively consuming mindless programming, they will too!
To grow into healthy, active, confident adults children must have the chance to test their abilities, and discover their strengths and weaknesses. Watching television or playing computer games does not provide them with the necessary real-life activities that will accomplish this. So, get up, get moving, and spend time interacting with your preschooler in ways that enhance his physical, mental, and emotional well being!