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Question : My toddler doesn’t eat food without the TV on and cries if I shut it down. Please help!
Our Answer : This is a common feature in most of the households these days. Toddlers are becoming couch potatoes almost as soon as they leave the pram, psychologists have warned. Research shows that, on average, children under five are watching two hours of television a day – forming a habit which stays with them for many years.
TV Addiction in Children
The phenomenon is being blamed on the emergence of programs aimed at young infants, such as “Baby TV” and parents who use the television as a substitute ‘nanny’ for their children. It has been found in a research that in many cases parents who wished to pursue their own activities used television as a way of keeping their children amused and out of the way. If the TV is a way of keeping your children quiet, you have to question that approach.’
All this is having a huge impact on a child’s mental, physical and even linguistic skills! There have also been reports that it has a harmful effect on such cognitive abilities as attention and reading and it has a significant relationship with language delay. This is still an early age where you can work on de-addicting your kid from watching too much of Television or any digital screens that enables information consumption.
A few pointers to help you have been discussed.
Explain to the Child
In order to communicate anything to your child, you have to talk to him. Sit down and help him to understand why it’s not okay to watch too much TV and that there are lots of other things he can be doing. You may want to outline a schedule during your talk and set times that are appropriate for your child to watch TV. Many families have found that technology has made scheduling easier since you can record your child’s favorite shows and allow him to watch them at intervals throughout the week rather than all in one night.
Reduce Viewing Time
Turn the TV off! How often is your TV on even though nobody is watching it? Many people have gotten so used to the TV that they now need it to serve as the background noise to daily life. A schedule is a great way to reduce the amount of TV watching that goes on, and it allows the poor box to be turned off every once in a while. Don’t allow your kids to get in the habit of coming home from school and turning on the television; leave it off until everything else is taken care of.
Provide Fun Alternatives
Rather than constantly yelling at your kids to turn off the TV, provide them with alternatives so that they don’t want to watch TV. Bringing in new games, books, and other activities will give them something better to do with their time while at home. For younger kids, simple sticker books and coloring books will keep them entertained for hours. Even something as simple as this can engage their creativity and stimulates them much more than staring at a TV screen. Arts and crafts activities encourage your child to use their imagination, as well as learning toys, puppet theaters; anything that gets your child thinking rather than just watching.
Get Outdoors with the Child
Kids don’t move around nearly as much as they should. Send them outside to play. Enroll your kids in team sports to not only get them moving, but also to teach them how to be a part of a team. Take time to do family outings as well. Even trips to the library, which are fun and free, teach your children the value and importance of reading. Museums, planetariums, live theater; the options are endless. Any of these not only get your child away from the TV, but also offers learning and cultural experiences.
Rewards for other activities
If your child is really struggling with a TV addiction, it’s time to help them break the habit. Providing rewards along with other alternatives is a great way to help them get off of the couch. The rewards you offer should have nothing to do with TV, but should be focused on other things that your child can do. Trips to the book store, going out for ice cream, or money for a new toy are all great rewards that won’t have your child right back in front of the TV. If you are banning television all together, you could use an outing to the movie theater as a reward. This way they are getting to see a movie but still staying away from the television.
Several studies show that young children who are allowed “screen time,” including TV or other electronics, before age 2 demonstrate poorer performance in school than their peers who don’t have the same exposure. In one study from 2005, researchers found that for every hour of television-watching before age 3, there were significant decreases in scores on reading comprehension and memory assessments. Another study found that children who watched television at ages 1 and 3 were more likely to have issues with hyperactivity at age 7.
Children, for lack of knowing any better, will always choose to watch TV or go to the computer unless we teach them to think outside the box.
What can Parents do
Make it a Family Choice: Take a pledge to really stop using gadgets as an everyday pass time. Practice during Screen-Free week. Unplug.
Set the Stage: Set up an “Invitation to Play” by having enticing materials to spark play all ready for when a child comes home from school. Maybe teddy bears waiting for a tea party or some art materials.
Change up their Routine: Do not say a word but leave a surprise for them like a new set of badminton racquets.
Set Limits: Give your children certain times when they can watch TV. Like they cannot watch before school when you want their brains to be quiet and focused before heading out for a day of learning.
Let them Choose: Have them make a list of things they think are cooler than TV. Honor their choices and respect them enough to help them happen.
Play With Them: The most obvious, it seems, but sometimes we need reminded that children learn more from us than any toy or TV show. Spend more time talking and conversing with your child.