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.