Are you one of the parents, grandparents who find that the toddlers around them watch too much TV?? Now a days if you look closely many toddlers and children below age 1 are also seen watching TV most of the time. If not your child, see some children around you, study their behavior. If not TV they might be watching some videos on a smartphone. TV has become a favourite distraction for kids as well as some parents.
Parents might find TV as easily available resource to distract the kids when they need to finish some work or need some alone time. But do you know AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends no screen time at all for the children below age 2 years. Between 3-4 years one hour of Screen time is maximum and after that may be an hour and a half. These guidelines are use only in case and not a compulsion.
Children who do not watch TV or have any screen time tend to develop better physically and mentally than their peers who are attached to screen time. You don’t need to look far these days to check statistics about babies and screen time (Go ahead. Google It!! Many sites which will give you detailed statistics). At this rate the children might spend more time watching TV than they spend in classrooms. There are some serious problems associated with prolonged TV exposure to toddlers.
Some problems which are associated with toddlers watching too much TV are below:
Couch Potato Syndrome
When toddlers are used to watching too much TV, have you noticed how they forget about what is going on around them? They sometimes do not even respond to your calls until you go and gently shake them for attention. This is because when they are watching TV they tend to enter a trance like state which is very harmful for them in the long run because it reduces their metabolism more than normal idle sitting. This is something that is very similar to couch potato syndrome where they are sitting like vegetation. No movement and in a complete trance state.
Reduced developmental activity
Physical activity such as running around, jumping, playing, talking etc are on a hold when a child is watching TV. These activities which a toddler does play a very important role in their physical and developmental milestones. Children who watch TV regularly tend to prefer silently sitting and watching over playing around the house.
Excessive watching of TV prevents them from learning physical skills and social skills which will make them happy early. Children who watch too much TV for a long time will depend on it for stimulation or happiness in their future life.
Remember those days when we were kids? I never got any TV time when I was a kid. Me and my cousins would often find something to play with always. For example in rainy seasons when we would find snails and their nesting places just for fun. Seems idiotic!! But trust me we learnt so much in the process. We had so much fun.
Lack of attention to the hunger and intake of food
Watching TV regularly involves sitting in one place and being stable for a long time. This reduces body’s metabolism to comparatively lowest level. This reduces the rate at which the calories they eat tend to burn. Often junk foods commercial or snack items present the unhealthy food in a beautiful way that, toddlers want to eat such items only. This snacking habit while watching TV will take their mind of what they are eating. They might not even notice how much they are eating as long as the TV is on the food is going in. They will not be able to focus on their hunger because their attention is somewhere else.Hence the higher level of cholesterol and which in turn leads to obesity in children which is becoming very common.
Enhanced aggressive behaviour
Many parents have seen that watching too much TV (prolonged TV time) has increased violence in their children. If you see in certain shows that the children watch the hero always beats the villain. The weaker child is bullied by a stronger child. But is the child old enough to understand the difference between a hero and a villain or children behavior about bullying? What is the child learning ? That violence is ok in some cases. I am not saying that TV encourages violence but it sure does desensitize them towards violence.
Introduction to fear
Have you seen toddlers, they are fearless to begin with. Young children cannot really differentiate between fantasy and real life. When toddlers watch many TV shows they learn about fear. They find fantasy as frightening as reality because they tend to take all that they hear and see literally. Children think what they see on TV happens to them in real life. They might experience terrors related to the fears later not while watching it. It’s not only the thought of something happening to them, also happening to their loved ones. They might start dreaming about these things.
Many shows teach important values like kindness, honesty, sharing and tolerance etc. However there are many programs and advertisements that might promote negative values such as fighting, lying, idea of becoming famous by acquiring things, bullying etc. Kids at a tender age do not know how to differentiate between good and bad. They learn everything they see without even understanding it. They need to learn about value from parents and grandparents and people around them but not from the TV.
Delayed intellectual development
Have you ever seen how transfixed your kid is with the shows that are specially made for them? Why not right? These kids shows and rhymes are so interesting, fast paced, captivating and entertaining. (Most of us know “Baby shark Do Do Do, Baby shark!!!” and let’s not forget the famous “Wheels on the Bus”!!!) But do you know the down side of this? It turns your child into passive learner who later find it difficult to focus on the teacher school method which is an interacting situation. This starts to seem boring to heavy TV watchers in comparison to kids who watch less TV. Kids who love TV Time and toddlers who watch too much TV might find reading books and interacting with other kids less interesting. This might hinder their intellectual and social development.
Lack family and social skills
When people in the family are watching TV they are rarely paying attention to each other. If this is a limited time privilege it shall be fine, but if people from the house including toddler watch television for too long, they are not really interacting with each other. There is no exchange of ideas, no talks, no emotional interactions. This often leads to cause kids to not like social interactions, or not value family time etc. The kids find it difficult to connect to people on an emotional level or social level.
Negligible imagination and creativity
When it comes to reading the children have to imagine about what is happening, how it is happening. Even if books provide pictures there isn’t an actual motion which shows you what is happening. Kids tend to relate their imagination to the pictures and make their own videos in their mind about what is happening. Do you know what this process is? Creative Imagination!!
Children love to imagine and trust me once they start imagining they can imagine themselves in a rocket and it moving while holding something that resembles a Rocket!! But with TV what happens is there is no scope for actual imagination as the whole picture is there. They can see the whole video and need not imagine everything. There also few shows which make kids imagine and think, but how do you make sure your kids only watch that?
Lack of healthy coping skills
What do you do when the child is cranky, bored, upset or irritated and you are unable to console them with any activities or by talking to them? Now a days you see most of the parents resorting to TV or mobile to distract the toddlers. (No judgement here!! Sometimes parents need to relax too!! Know “Best tips for new and first time moms” to help you relax? ) But what the kids are learning is to find an easy way out or easy way of distraction when they face an unfamiliar and unpleasant emotion. So basically they are learning to find easy fixes for their problem. This can even turn into self destructing habits in future to cope in confusing, unfamiliar or distressing situations.
Delayed independent play skills
Children and toddlers who watch too much TV cannot really entertain themselves because they have not spent active time playing and learning about what interests them apart from watching TV.
Physical play seems like a chore to them. At this point children do not know how to spend time with themselves and their thoughts. Starting to learn “independent play” late can be exhausting for them. As parents it is a tedious for you to help them learn to put the efforts into independent play.
In spite of knowing all these reasons are we able to completely isolate the television time for toddlers from our life? No.
Delayed Language Skills
There are research which shows speech delay in the toddlers who are exposed to TV in the early years of their life. Since they are focused on looking at the TV and listening only without actual interactions required when watching TV. Activities like speaking to other family members, playing with other kids will help them practice their communication skills. This consequently helps them improve their language skills.
Few reasons behind why toddlers get to watch too much tv:
There are many educational shows which are good influencers for children. Children might learn a lot about art, science. Because of a few shows, you tend to loose the attention over the educational aspect of the TV. We need to find time to sort and list the shows for them which they can watch. We need to sit with them and interpret everything they see and help them understand what they are watching.
Availability and convenience:
Many a times we cannot afford baby sitter for when we have to work.Television is much more cheaper and easily available service. At such times we tend to turn to these “Electronic Baby Sitters” for help to keep the little ones occupied until the time we are free. We need to find and create activities for them which can involve them without introducing the toddlers to TV.
“Peaceful Me Time”:
As Parents of children (especially toddlers) you need the peaceful me time when you are stressed, so what’s the best option? Screen time or TV time. There is nothing like Television time that can occupy highly energetic toddlers. This is sometimes an understandable reason or excuse on why do parents actually bend towards and favor TV viewing by toddlers.
Once the child starts growing there will be their friends who might start talking about famous TV shows and they might tend to feel left out. So because of these peer pressure they might ask you for the shows.
This article is not to condemn or hurt any parent who does this. There are times when I myself have resorted to TV shows when I had medical issues. It is just to inform the consequences to the parents of toddlers watching too much TV. You need to understand the symptoms or conditions which arise when the children are exposed to long TV hours. The consequences are not same in all children and it varies within age groups. But the difficulties the parents might face later in their life will be similar!!
You need to reduce the TV time considerably. Preferably below one or two hours per day for the children. Think about what you can do instead of TV time. May be you can take them to parks in the evening, play dates, individual play, imaginary play or painting activities etc which can keep them occupied. These activities might not stress you out completely. In case you are completely exhausted, you can seek help from your partner, or your friends if they can take care of your child for one or two hours when you require your much required break. Make sure you return the favor too for other parents to sometimes. This can help reduce the TV time considerably.
Hope the article helps!! Share with all parents you know!!