School’s almost out! What are your children doing this summer? For the first few days of summer, most kids like to relax and do nothing. A day in front of the television is just what they’ve been waiting for! Although they deserve a break, don’t let television become their babysitter this summer! According to Nielsen statistics, children ages 2-1l in the United States view an average of 3.5 hours of television daily. The effects of such extensive television viewing are linked to violent and aggressive behavior, obesity, poor academic performance, and the use of drugs or alcohol.
The amount of violence on television is increasing and can harmfully affect young children. Children can become frightened and worried from watching violence on TV. Research also demonstrates that children who watch violent programs tend to be more aggressive than other children. Excessive television viewing may also have detrimental effects on learning and school performance. The hours spent watching television interfere with homework and other ways of learning. If a child is not performing well academically, television may be a contributing factor to the problem.
Television limits time for other very important activities such as family time and personal development. Children need time to play alone and with other children. Children also need time to talk, play and share with adults. Television also limits time that children have to be creative and to explore their interests.
It is important that parents help children to use TV as a positive, creative tool and help them avoid its negative influences. Parents should get involved and know what their children are watching on television. Help your child select age appropriate programs. Many stations now give ratings to help parents guide children’s viewing of programs. Also remember that lockout devices are available to ensure that certain channels cannot be seen.
Parents may also use television programs as an opportunity for learning. TV programs may help parents and children to discuss difficult topics. Be sure to discuss the difference between fantasy and reality. If children express an interest in a program they are watching, help them follow up on that program with related library books.
Resist commercials! Children cannot see through a sales pitch without your help. When your child requests food and toys advertised on TV, teach them that television makes them want things that they do not necessarily need and that some things that TV makes them want may even be harmful. Never use television as a reward or withhold television as a punishment. Such practices make television seem even more important. It is advisable to put a limit on the amount of television allowed in a day.
Give children other alternatives to watching television this summer. There are many day camps, overnight camps and other fun and educational activities offered throughout the summer in and around Lee County. Keep their minds and bodies active this summer. Please contact the Extension Office at (919) 775-5624 for more information on how to get your children involved in activities offered through 4-H this summer.
Bill Stone is 4-H Youth Development Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.