Keep­ing watch

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FAMILY - By JEN­NIFER BERGER

MON­ICA Ma­har’s chil­dren love to act out sto­ries and would rather play than watch TV.

“They have amaz­ing imag­i­na­tions and pre­fer to play with their dolls and toys,” said Ma­har, of East Rock­away, New York, who has three chil­dren un­der the age of seven. By to­day’s stan­dards, Ma­har’s chil­dren watch a small amount of tele­vi­sion, an hour here or there and some days, none at all.

“They’re prob­a­bly not the norm be­cause I’ve al­ways lim­ited their choices,” she said. “My old­est reads sev­eral lev­els above her cur­rent grade, and I’m sure this is why.”

On the other hand, Emily Siger­son, of Cen­ter Moriches, New York, who has three young daugh­ters, be­lieves that ap­pro­pri­ate tele­vi­sion view­ing may be ben­e­fi­cial.

“My two older girls have a ba­sic un­der­stand­ing of the Span­ish lan­guage from watch­ing shows such as Dora The Ex­plorer and Go Diego Go,” Siger­son said. “In ad­di­tion, they’re able to recog­nise let­ters and words from watch­ing Sesame Street and Su­per Why.”

You may be won­der­ing if TV re­ally does af­fect your child’s de­vel­op­ment. Well, new re­search sug­gests you may want to grab the re­mote. A re­cent study from the US-based Jour­nal Of Pe­di­atrics found view­ing just nine min­utes of a fast-paced tele­vi­sion pro­gramme, such as Sponge­Bob SquarePants, can cause short-term at­ten­tion and learn­ing prob­lems in four-year-olds.

Ac­cord­ing to the AP, the prob­lems were seen in a study of 60 chil­dren ran­domly as­signed to ei­ther watch Sponge­Bob, or the slower-paced car­toon Cail­lou or as­signed to draw pic­tures. Im­me­di­ately af­ter these nine­minute as­sign­ments, the kids took men­tal func­tion tests. Those who had watched Sponge­Bob did mea­sur­ably worse than the oth­ers.

The AP re­port also says that pre­vi­ous re­search has linked TV-watch­ing with long-term at­ten­tion prob­lems in chil­dren, but the new study sug­gests more im­me­di­ate prob­lems can oc­cur af­ter very lit­tle ex­po­sure – re­sults that par­ents of young kids should be aware of.

Kids’ car­toon shows typ­i­cal­ly­cally fea­ture about 22 min­utes of ac­tion, so watch­ing a full pro­gramme “could be more detri­men­tal,” the study re­searchers spec­u­lated, but more ev­i­dence is needed to con­firm that.

Ex­perts weigh in

pro­fes­sor of clin­i­cal pae­di­atrics at New York’s Stony Brook Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal.

“Although the study is lim­ited due to its choice of a non-di­verse pop­u­la­tion, no pretest­ing of its sub­jects and a small sam­ple size (60), it cer­tainly raises red flags that par­ents need to be very dili­gent as to what their chil­dren are watch­ing and when,” Creighton said. The Amer­i­can Academy Of Pe­di­atrics rec­om­mends no TV un­der the age of two and less than two hours per day of to­tal me­dia time (which in­cludes com­put­ers, DS games, video games, and movies) for chil­dren older than two, Creighton said. “These rec­om­men­da­tion­s­men­da­tions seem rea­son­able, but very hard to en­force in a mul­ti­ple-child house­hold.” Cris­tine Zawat­son, prin­ci­pal at a pre-kinder­garten cen­tre, agrees tele­vi­sion shows such as Sponge­Bob are not age-ap­pro­pri­ate for pre-kindy chil­dren. “Chil­dren look at the char-char­ac­ters on TV as role mod­els, and we have to make sure we mon­i­tor what they’re watch­ing,” Zawat­son said. Be­fore you let your child watch some­thing, watch it first, she sug­gested. “This study is a wake-up call for all par­ents, in­clud­ing my­self,” Creighton said. “As a par­ent of four kids un­der eight years old, I know that ‘down­time’ in most house­holds does in­clude some tele­vi­sion watch­ing. Un­for­tu­nately, even though it’s ‘down­time’ it still must be mon­i­tored by the par­ents. It’s very easy to think that shows run­ning on pop­u­lar kids chan­nels are age-ap­pro­pri­ate and will not harm the chil­dren who are ex­posed to them.”

Tips for par­ents

As long as TV is not a re­place­ment for in­tel­lec­tual de­vel­op­ment, it’s used in moder­a­tion for short stints, and if it’s pre­viewed by a guardian or par­ent, a lit­tle is OK, Zawat­son said.

“Tele­vi­sion shouldn’t take the place of hu­man con­tact, even if it claims to be ed­u­ca­tional,” she said.

“But I like to make sure we’re ad­dress­ing the needs of our chil­dren when we have the abil­ity to en­gage with them. For ex­am­ple, it’s very im­por­tant to have fam­ily time to­gether, whether it’s do­ing arts and crafts, read­ing, play­ing board games, go­ing to the park or even do­ing chores.”

Kris­ten Mucha, a chil­dren’s li­brar­ian in New York, as well as a mother to a two-year-old, be­lieves TV can limit a child’s cre­ativ­ity.

“When chil­dren be­gin to watch too much TV at one time, their brains then fo­cus solely on what they’re watch­ing,” Mucha said. “Rather than spend­ing time in front of the tele­vi­sion, chil­dren should be in­spired to think, cre­ate, and play.”

Talk to them, play games that al­low them to use their imag­i­na­tion, go for a walk, and be ac­tive, Mucha sug­gested. – News­day/ Mc­Clatchy-Tri­bune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

The Sponge­Bob study is an in­ter­est­ing new de­vel­op­ment in the field of how tele­vi­sion af­fects chil­dren, said Jill Creighton, as­sis­tant

Sponge­bob SquarePants may not be a good com­pan­ion for four-yearolds, a study has found.

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