Why TV is not so terrible
Why the goggle box won’t turn your child into a robot
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Yes, we know. Studies have shown that watching too much television impairs young children’s language development and it is implicated in some cases of ADHD. No-one is suggesting it’s a good idea to let your child goggle at the flashing television screen from his pram, or spend every waking moment after school staring at it. It is perfectly possible to have a wonderful family evening without any television (thank you Eskom for the rebirth of card games and Scrabble). But it is also possible to find a balanced role for the television set in your life and home, and here are a few reasons why.

Barney knows his colours
Certain children’s programmes – such as the much-maligned purple dinosaur – have educational and moral content that will help your child to learn in a fun way. If you are not going to sit down and sing counting rhymes with your child right now, there’s no harm in him spending some time watching an educational programme. But there’s a reason why children’s television programmes have short episodes – don’t be tempted to let the 3-hour compilation run on and on while you do a full mani-pedi.

Everyone watches My Little Pony
Peer acceptance can be a huge issue when starting at a new pre-school or school, and television is a social lubricant that, in judiciously small amounts, makes these transitions easier. Draw your usual lines in the sand regarding unsuitable content – just because everyone watched the Under taker pretend to beat himself to death with a chair or whatever, doesn’t mean your child has to.

It’s relaxing
Sometimes a child or teen just wants to relax, and television really is very relaxing. You just have to watch a group of children sitting with half-open mouths watching cartoons to know that, and it’s backed up by research showing that television watching slows your brainwaves. The question is, how many hours per day do you want your child’s brainwaves slowed for? It’s important to draw boundaries so children learn that the television has an off switch and other activities can also be worthwhile. If you see your child beginning to slump and drool, it’s past time to pull the plug.

It’s something to do with your teen
Teenagers may become very busy, very uninterested in going for walks with you,and even less interested in playing games with the rest of the family. But watching programmes of mutual interest such as sport or reality television like Idols can create a bridge for discussion and mutual enjoyment. Who knows, one day your teen may even be willing to be seen at a live sporting event with you.

It can spark conversation
Use television as your own tool to start a conversation about difficult topics like sex, xenophobia, bullying or whatever. Express an opinion about a character’s choices, and ask your child or teen whether they would have done the same or what else they think could have been done. But it’s best not to try not to turn everything into A Learning Moment, because if anything is going to kill the bonding aspect of watching The Amazing Race together, it’s your putting on a soppy, earnest voice and asking a meaningful question in every ad break.

TV-watching Tips

  • Limit the time your child can watch television – ban it in the afternoon when homework needs to be done, and have a fixed time when children need to go to bed.
  • Be aware of how much television your child is exposed to at day mothers or even school aftercare. Ask direct questions if you suspect the children are being propped in front of a television for long periods.
  • Have one television set only in the house, no TVs in children’s bedrooms or far-flung family rooms. Anything they watch, you must know about.
  • Use the parental controls if you have a decoder. Pre-school and school-age children need to be protected from the adult content on some channels.
  • Use television as a springboard to other activities – a reluctant reader may be more interested in reading Winnie the Pooh having seen him on television. This may be depressing, but it’s true, so use it to your child’s advantage.
  • Facilitate other activities – be willing to play cards, kick a ball outside, go for walks in the rain and generally drag yourself away from Isidingo sometimes.

What are your family’s TV watching habits? Which programmes do you watch together, and do you monitor your children’s viewing?

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