How much television do you let your child watch

Child watching tv


How much television do you let your child watch? Do you feel that watching television offers benefits for your child?’s Amy Schofield takes a look at how television in moderation can be used to support your child’s learning.

There are 60 million TV sets in use in the UK today, and for most of us it is a part of our daily routine.

However, recent research reveals that television has a negative effect on play between parents and young children.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that when parents and children were in a playroom with the TV on, both the quantity and the quality of interactions between parents and children dropped.

The study found that parents spent about 20 per cent less time talking to their children when the TV was on and were less active, attentive, and responsive to their kids while the electronic babysitter blared in the background. The researchers said that the results showed that assuming that telly only affects children if they are looking at it is wrong. And more research las month for a psychologist at the University of Stirling found that watching a lot of television could be linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Moderation is the key, and here I want to look at ways to manage your child’s television viewing.

Managing your child’s viewing

How many hours of television do you feel it is appropriate for your child to watch? Do you monitor what your child is watching? In a survery from Freeview, four out of 10 mums believed that between half an hour and one hour of TV viewing per day during the week and between one and two hours at the weekend is acceptable. Less than five per cent think no television should be watched at all.

One parent who took part in the survey said: “I do think that parents have the ultimate responsibility to ensure that their children only watch appropriate programmes. However, I also think that the programme makers/broadcasters on the channels specifically aimed at young children do have a big responsibility to make sure that everything on those channels is suitable for their target audience.”

The research revealed that the most important approach to your child’s television viewing is to ensure that they have access to a good balance of programmes, that they are not exposed to age-inappropriate content, and that you restrict television viewing times depending on your child’s age and what you personally feel is suitable for your child.

Managing your child’s TV consumption can include:

  • Supervised viewings
  • Locking adult channels
  • Screening the programmes a child may watch
  • Pre-recording programmes for a child to watch
  • Setting time-limits and routines of when the television can be watched
  • Try to find a variety of programmes such as educational, documentaries, news for children, sing-along music, and cartoons. This way you will offer your child a good balance of viewing and support their development in all areas.

Make it positive!

The key to making sure that television is a positive part of your child’s life is to ensure it is managed and monitored carefully.- Don’t just ‘plug in’ your child. Get them interacting, enjoying, and learning.

  • Balance television watching with other activities such as days-out, outdoor activities, extra-curricular classes, family games, reading, and plenty of exercise.
  • Discuss your child’s viewing with them – what have they learnt? What do they think about the programme? You could even try making up some games and activities to play around your child’s favourite programme.
  • Don’t have the TV on during mealtimes.
  • Expand on a child’s programme by encouraging them to connect it with the ‘real-world’.
  • Try to source interactive programmes or DVDs which allow children to participate in the programme.

For older children, make ground-rules together about viewing times and the content they watch.

Amy Schofield is online editor of

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