TV, Internet & video games
Children, on average, spend far more time watching TV, playing video games and using the Internet than they do completing homework or other school-related activities.
Internet use is also becoming increasingly common. Banning these kinds of media from children's lives isn't the answer, however, as they can spark children's curiosity and open up new worlds to them.
Here are some suggestions for helping your child to use TV and video games.
Parent Tips for TV and Video Game Use
- Look for age-appropriate programmes and games. Think about your child's age and choose the types of things that you want him to see, learn, and imitate.
- Look for TV shows and video games that:
— teach your child something
— hold their interest
— encourage them to listen and question
— help them learn more words
— make them feel good about themselves
— introduce them to new ideas and things.
- Limit the time your child spends watching TV and playing video games. Keep a record of how many hours your child spends watching TV and playing video games each week, as well as what they are watching or playing. For example, some experts recommend that children limit their TV watching to no more than 2 hours a day. Remember that watching TV and playing video games are not substitutes for activities, such as reading, playing with friends, spending time outside, making projects, and talking with family members, which are important to their development.
- Learn about current TV children's programmes, DVDs, and video games, and help your child to select good ones. Many good children's television programmes are available on public television stations and on children's cable channels, and many of those programmes also offer related educational video or computer games.
- Look for educational shows and games. There are many children's programmes, movies, music performances, and games that emphasise reading, language, and maths skills.
- Talk to your child about what interests them. After selecting programmes or games that are appropriate for your child, help them decide which ones interest them. When watching television, turn on the TV when one of these programmes starts and turn it off when the program ends.
- Watch TV and play the games with your child, so that you can answer questions and talk about what they sees. Pay special attention to how they respond, so that you can help them understand what they are seeing. Try to point out the things that are part of your child's everyday life.
- When you can't watch TV with your child or monitor their video game use, spot check to see what they are watching and playing. Ask questions after the programme ends. See what excites or troubles them. Find out what they have learned and remembered.
- Go to the library and find books that explore the themes of the shows and games they are enjoying. Help your child to use their drawings or pictures cut from magazines to make a book based on the programmes and games they are using.
- Follow-up TV viewing or game playing with activities. Have your child tell you a new word that he learned from a TV programme. Together, look up the word in a dictionary and talk about its meaning. Have them make up their own story about one of their favourite characters from their video games.
- Make certain that TV and video games aren't used as a babysitter. Instead, balance these forms of entertainment with other enjoyable activities for your child.
- Model good TV viewing habits. Remember that children often imitate their parents' behaviour. Children who live in homes in which parents and other family members watch a lot of TV are likely to spend their time in the same way. Children who live in homes in which parents and other family members have "quiet" time away from the TV when they read (either alone to each other), talk to each other, play games or engage in other activities tend to do the same.
Video Game Content
- Familiarise yourself with game ratings and reviews beforehand. After reading a few reviews, rent or borrow a game and try it out before you consider buying it.
- In games for older children, watch out for negative images of girls and women, and violence. In addition to presenting unrealistic and exposed female bodies, many games direct violence at female (as well as male) characters. If your child plays these games, talk to them about what they think of the female characters. It's important for your child to hear you speak out against images and ideas you find objectionable.