Childcare and Parenting
The impact of TV on your family needs careful management - a new report reveals how you can cut through the mixed messages.
How much TV do your kids consume? Are you confused about what is good and bad programming? In a recent interview with the Guardian, Floella Benjamin, one of the foremost figures in children's television said of the 28 children's satellite channels available today, from Nickelodeon to the Cartoon Network, "The diet of programming children are receiving at the moment is sucking their brains."
She attributes this in part to the fact that cheap cartoon imports are easy (and cheaper) for channels to obtain and broadcast 24 hours a day, rather than producing the time and budget consuming programmes that are publicly funded and aired on the BBC for instance.
However, despite the negativity often associated with children’s TV today, new research released by Freeview suggests that 8 out of 10 parents believe television has a positive effect on their child’s development, including helping them to expand their imagination (63%) and broaden vocabulary (60%). These findings form part of an independent report by Dr Tanya Byron (pictured) which looks at the effects of TV viewing on young children, as well as new research commissioned by Freeview on how parents manage children’s television viewing.
And it is the management of TV viewing is key. Do you know what your child watches? Do you know how to block certain channels on your satelite service? Do they have a TV in their room. Take a close look at how you manage their consumption of TV, just as you would look at their diet and cut out sweets if you found they were eating them four hours a day.
The research also reveals that some parents are confused about differing messages around the potential impact of TV viewing on their children. In response, Freeview has created Viewtrition : A Parent’s Guide to Quality TV for Kids that shows how to provide a diet of responsible viewing.
Key findings from the Freeview research show that:
· 66% of parents indicated the positive effect of TV on their child’s numeracy and musical skills, while just over a quarter (28%) said that some TV programmes encouraged their child to exercise whilst watching.
· Two-thirds (67%) of parents surveyed recognised that television viewing could also have a negative effect on their child, though they remain confused as to how and what these effects might be.
· Parents also acknowledged that an attitude of ‘responsible viewing’ needed to be adopted to provide their children with a balanced TV diet, with over half of parents saying they control what their children watch by scheduling viewing times (53%), watching it with them (57%), and setting time limits (44%) and using digital TV recorders such as Freeview+ (25%) to record appropriate programmes.
· It is clear that using the digital TV recorder (such as Freeview+) is essential to the way parents manage their children’s TV experience with 50% saying it has revolutionised their child’s viewing in a positive way, and 68% state it has made it easier to control and plan what their child watches around their routine.
· 85% of parents don’t feel guilty about letting their children watch TV, provided their child’s TV consumption is monitored, balanced and controlled.
· Online focus groups also revealed that despite their positive attitude towards TV and their children, there was still confusion amongst parents with regards to existing research around behavioral, developmental and emotional problems.
Viewtrition: A Parent’s Guide to Quality TV for Kids has been created to empower parents to make the best choices around their children’s TV consumption. The guide offers a common sense approach to providing a healthy, balanced TV diet for children, dispelling some of the myths associated with children’s TV viewing and sharing advice from Dr Tanya Byron (herself a mother of two). TV star Meera Syal MBE also contributes to the guide outlining how TV plays an important role in her family life and how she ensures her children enjoy TV responsibly.
Dr Tanya Byron observed: “Whilst parents who participated in the Freeview focus groups said they were happy to trust their own instincts and to judge what is right for their child, they admitted some advice and guidance would give them additional confidence to ensure they were maximising the quality TV for children available.”
Byron continues: “The report aims to present the facts so parents can make their own decisions about what’s right for their family. I, too, believe that television has a positive role to play in a child’s development but it does need to be monitored and managed responsibly. Each parent knows their child best and the Freeview Viewtrition Guide is about giving parents information and advice that they can then adapt and use to help provide their children a balanced TV diet.”
Meera Syal, mother and actress adds: “I am really keen to promote the benefits of responsible TV viewing for children as TV has so much entertainment and education to offer a child when watched selectively. TV played an important part in my upbringing and plays a really positive role in our family life today.”
The Freeview Viewtrition Report and Guide can be downloaded from www.viewtrition.co.uk or www.freeview.co.uk .