"Is watching TV bad for my daughter?"
My little girl is 3 years old and does not watch much television in our home. However, she does enjoy watching Dr 90210 with me, and I have noticed that it is all she really cares to watch these days. I am a little worried that the operations may be too gruesome for her, even though I explain everything to her in detail. Could watching such programs have an emotional effect on her psyche?
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Marie-Jeanne Kruger replies:

The short answer to this is yes, it can have an impact on your child, but the long answer is that it is difficult to gauge just how much of an impact it will have. Much depends on your child’s inherent temperament and sensitivity.

Watch her carefully and take note of her behaviour during and after the program, and see if anything about her changes: look out for tense expressions of fear, nightmares, an unwillingness to be alone or clingy behaviour.

The fact of the matter is that children of this age cannot distinguish between fact and fiction, even if you do tell her that it is “just a story’”. I am perturbed by the fact that she wants to watch more and more of this program, but it could be that she just enjoys being with you, and wants to spend more time with you. Make a point of spending some time giving her your undivided attention, and do things like reading her stories, or building jigsaw puzzles with her.

I’m rather pleased by the fact that your little one does not watch many other programs on TV, as far too many people turn the television as a child minder. Besides the fact that TV programs can be entertaining and educational, they also have their disadvantages.

More than one study has proved that too much TV can cause sleep disorders, eye problems, behavioural defects, obesity, and aggressive behaviour. Unfortunately, the characters of some of the junior programs idealise violence, and this can be very confusing to the little ones.

Children between the ages of 2 and 5 spend an average of 32 hours per week in front of the TV, and this is time they could spend playing outside, reading, being with family, being creative or playing with friends. To spend time, idly staring at a screen is not good for mind or body.

The best advice for parents is to:

•    Make sure you know what your children are watching.
•    Keep the TV off during mealtimes.
•    Be a good role model for your children by only watching certain well-chosen programs.
•    Refrain from putting a TV into the children’s bedrooms or playrooms.
•    Encourage children to play outside and to do creative things.

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