Do these kids' drawing show the scary effect of too much TV?

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The old-age debate about the bad effects of television has come to haunt us yet again.

As parents, we’ve been advised repeatedly on the negative effects of television on children. Not only does watching too much television eat into valuable time for running around and physical play, but it also exposes them to potentially harmful content.

Now, a viral image being shared on Facebook apparently shows another side to the negative effects of television on children:

Are the negative effects of television on children really that bad?

The image shown in the Facebook post above was obtained from a German study. The study aimed to observe how television and passive smoking could influence the development of five- to six- year-olds.

Apparently, their results showed that watching too much television was linked to”clear deficits in visual perception.” The results insinuate that too much TV can actually alter a child’s brain development. 

Controversial findings

However, reality isn’t always so black and white. The fact is, some kids can draw really well even though they’re tech addicts, and vice versa.

The Facebook image has actually drawn more more skepticism than support among netizens.

One user wrote, As a scientist, evidence based health practitioner and a mother, I call bulls**t. Please stop spreading noise that does nothing more than to further the divide between those who can and cannot draw with as much detail. There’s enough pressure on parents as it is.”

Another user added, “Are you for real? This is the element of the nature play movement that I most dislike. Being anti-tech at ALL costs whilst fear-mongering with nothing to back it up.” 

Despite the many questions raised about this particular study (which wasn’t peer-reviewed), other studies have shown other negative effects of television on children. One study conducted in the United States has concluded that keeping media within your child’s bedroom could risk developmental problems like:

  • undesirable outcomes in general functioning. Additional screen time in the bedroom takes away time for more beneficial activities like reading and sleeping. The result was “negative outcomes such as school performance”.
  • risking early obesity
  • becoming addicted to video games
  • increased exposure to violence. The study noted that “children with bedroom media are also likely to be exposed to more media violence”, which could lead to them thinking that aggression is normal. Over time, kids may grow up to become increasingly violent.

The most important takeaway message from all of this is sticking to moderate screen times for your kids.

Tips to reduce excessive screen time

Knowing all this, it’s best to have some tips in place so that your children won’t get too much screen time. We’ve mentioned a lot of tips on reducing screen time in our previous articles, but here we’ve collated some that you might find useful.

negative effects of television on children

Sending your kids to a sports centre for activities that they like is a good alternative to watching TV all the time. | Image source: File photo

Find alternative activities to fill their time

1. Get a library card (or use their student pass)

If your kid is shy, you should try encouraging him or her to read. It’s safe, beneficial, and suitable for any kid of any age. In fact, books might just turn out to be your child’s best friend. Also check out audio books on tape. Kids in primary schools can borrow books using their student pass!

2. Encourage them to help out around the house

Giving your kids a few chores to do will eventually help them gain a sense of responsibility. Let them “help” you cook, clean, and do laundry. Your little ones don’t need to do everything – even small tasks like stirring, pouring, and mixing food for dinner prep this afternoon. In fact, this trick might also unleash a hidden culinary talent in junior. If the kitchen is out of bounds, even helping out via folding clothing, matching socks, or putting away clothes.

3. Work up a sweat

The best thing for your child to do instead of watching television is to get active. Have them join a sport, take up dance lessons or gymnastic classes. It could even be as simple as going for a walk with your kid. Why not take some time off to go to the park or to the local pool today?

Set limits at home

As a parent, you can also use your authority to set up good habits from the get-go.

  • Allocate a fixed time for offline playtime activities every day, as it is necessary for your child’s development and creativity.
  • Create tech-free zones, such as during mealtimes or bedroom tech-free. Limiting telly use in certain times can encourage family time, healthier eating habits and even healthier sleep.
  • Content quality matters. It’s more important than the platform or how much time is spent. Always monitor what your child watches.
  • De-install their bedroom’s TV. Dealing with a seroius addict? Don’t make the television so accessible. Pull it from his room for more conducive sleep and study times. You can always replace the empty space with installing a bookshelf or have murals painted on the walls instead.
  • Switch off! Instil a new viewing habit – turn the TV off when the show is over. Make sure parents (you!) adhere to the rule as well so that kids will follow suit. Remember, children learn best by example. Very soon, switching off will become a regular routine in the home.
negative effects of television on children

Make it very clear to your children that mealtimes are no-telly times, but rather a time for family bonding and good food. | Image source: File photo

Don’t forget to Schedule Purposeful Usage, According to Their Age

Sometimes, certain TV programmes may be more enticing to your children than old fashioned coaching. It might also help with their learning – like Sesame Street, an educational show that’s good for kids. However, parents will need to schedule the use of the telly for their children and time it accordingly.

The American Association of Paediatricians advises the following age-by-age guide:

  1. For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.
  2. Children aged from two to five years should limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should also watch it with their children to help them understand what they are seeing.
  3. Older children (above six years old) should have consistent limits on screen time. Ensure that the media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviours essential to health.

References: Kinderkrankenschwester: Organ der Sektion Kinderkrankenpflege

Originally published by The Asian Parent Singapore

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