TV and kids—it’s a combination that’s hard to avoid sometimes. If your family does enjoy some TV time (in moderation), here are some tips to help make watching TV a positive learning experience for your child.
Watch what your child watches
Studies show that kids who watch educational and non-violent children’s shows do better on reading and math tests than children who do not watch these programs. Try to encourage your child to choose educational programs over pure entertainment shows, and to avoid violent shows altogether. TV program classifications can assist you to choose shows that are most suitable for your child, but it can also help to preview programs before your child watches them, or try watching them together. You could watch just the first few minutes of a show to see whether it is educational and appropriate for your child.
Use TV to build on learning
Some TV shows can educate, inform and inspire. TV can be more effective than books for showing your child processes like how a plant grows or how an engine works. Encourage your child to choose shows related to their interests, or things they are learning at school – like space, the environment or history.
Talk about it
Try to talk to your child about the programs they are watching, and ask questions about them. This could be as simple as asking you child, ‘What happened in that episode?’ For older children, you can try talking about what the characters in the show were feeling or doing, for example ‘Why do you think they did that?’ ‘What would you have done in that situation?’, and use TV to discuss different situations and difficult topics with your child.
Offer some alternatives to TV
Try to keep other non-screen entertainment like books, magazines, toys, puzzles and board games in the room where your TV is. This makes it easier to encourage children to do one of the other fun activities at hand. Try to encourage your child to spend time being active too – ride a bike, play sport or go for a run.
Be conscious of the time you and your family watch TV
Try to set screen time guidelines for your family, according to the ages of your children. Some parents find it helpful to have a weekday ban on TV—recording shows and saving TV time for weekends. Another great way to limit TV watching is to keep TVs and internet connections out of bedrooms. You could also try turning off the TV during meals or when your child is doing homework.