Television, computer, and video games are well established in today’s children’s everyday lives, who spent an incredibly long time in employment with these means.
According to the Federal Centre for Health Information of Germany (BZGA in Cologne), the following time restrictions per day are recommended for watching programs on TV and computer:
· Children 3 – 5 years old: half an hour
· Children 6 – 10 years old: one hour
· Children 10 – 13 years old: one and a half hours
Children under 2 years old are advised not to have any contact with these means.
Benefits of avocation with the media:
· In pre-school, children can learn the alphabet and numbers creatively and entertainingly through both television and computer.
· Some programs encourage children to seek information online, which makes learning interactive and exciting. The child acquires knowledge about the objects that concern him but also has fun at the same time.
· Special computer training programs can be used to address learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, or issues related to oral expression, as well as various problems that pre-school or school-age children may face. The exercises are very interesting and enjoyable for the children as they are part of a game and increase their cooperation and motivation.
· Some computer games help children develop and improve their cognitive skills, such as observation, concentration, the ability to find strategies for problem-solving, visual-motor coordination, and knowledge expansion.
Disadvantages of long-term involvement with the new media:
To children’s health:
· The computer’s daily and long-term use requires vision at short distances, reducing the time children “see” far away. Thus, the proportion of children with myopia problems is increasing.
· Spinal problems can be created due to poor posture during work with the computer.
· The sedentary lifestyle and reduced involvement in sports activities combined with the consumption of unhealthy products advertised in the media can create overweight children.
· Children may acquire certain negative habits, such as drinking alcohol, smoking, etc., as many characters on TV resort to these behaviors, presenting them as something positive and socially acceptable.
In the psychosynthesis of children:
· Television replaces various activities beneficial for children’s socialization, such as group play, physical activity, and other creative and productive activities.
· The family is alienated as all members are busy with the computers or televisions of the house, thus reducing communication and interaction between them.
· Continuous exposure to violent scenes through television or computer games results in desensitization to violence and a lack of response to actual violence. Thus, children show aggressive and inappropriate behavior, are more often involved in quarrels, and show disobedience to adults.
· These violent scenes can also have the opposite effect, i.e., children becoming sensitive and timid, gaining phobias, or even sleep problems due to nightmares.
· Children become passive receivers of projected shows and programs and do not cultivate their imagination and creativity.
What can parents do?
· You, as parents, set an example for your children, as the time children spend in front of the TV every day is directly linked to how many hours their parents do the same.
· You do not need to forbid or exclude with drastic measures and punishments, but you can cooperate and participate in children’s involvement with television or computer; seize this opportunity for learning and fun for the whole family.
· It’s a good idea to discreetly control what your kids see on TV or computer and set a watch timeout. Make sure your children attend programs with characters who are positive role models and promote the values of friendship, kindness, cooperation, and love.
· Recommend to your children alternative fun and creative activities, whether individual or group, not related to the media.
· Choose educational and recreational computer games that do not promote violence and competition, but instead encourage learning and nurture children’s creativity.
· You can watch a program with the children and discuss it to help them gain critical thinking. That will allow them to realize for themselves which program is beneficial and which presents negative patterns.
· Avoid using the TV as the easy solution of the “nanny” for children to be always busy and have time for your activities.
· Do not have electronic devices (televisions, computers, computer games) in the bedrooms.
· Turn off the TV at mealtime and study.
All the new media present several benefits but also many risks for our children. We cannot prevent them from being used, as technology has invaded our lives and is necessary for us, but we can use them to benefit our children while protecting them.