Guilt-free Television—is it a realistic concept? The answer is no unless it is monitored viewing time. Regardless of program quality, children should only watch television for brief periods of time. If you look specifically at the preschool years, they are a period of tremendous mental, physical, and emotional development. Activities—physically doing things—stimulate imagination and promote learning in ways that screen time cannot. Children need ample time each day for active learning.
When children do watch television, it should be pre-planned and implemented wisely. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours a day of educational, nonviolent programs for preschoolers. And I agree. Parents should also be selective about content; i.e., they should choose programs that provide information in specific academic disciplines as well as programs that support social and emotional development. Following the program, it’s ideal for parents to talk with children about what they just viewed, helping them relate to important concepts or letting them retell what they watched. These conversations can build upon children’s viewing experience.
Tips for viewing educational programs
- Be selective about your child’s television…carefully research the programs.
- Choose programs that are age-appropriate and give your child ideas and concepts that they can think and talk about.
- Limit your child’s exposure to advertisements. Be sure to turn off the television after your child has viewed the pre-planned program. (Background noise can interfere with face-to-face interactions.) This also goes for channel surfing. When a chosen show is over, turn off the TV. Some parents limit viewing to DVDs. That way, when a program is over, TV time is over.
- Don’t use the TV for background noise when you’re not watching—it can interfere with learning.
- Eat as a family at the dinner table, not in front of the TV. There’s nothing like the family table for learning manners and conversational skills.
- Try to make TV time happen at around the same time every day so your child knows what to expect and doesn’t think of TV as an ever-present possibility. This can cut down on battles over the on/off button.
- Watch with your child so you can talk about what you’re seeing. Children this age don’t know fact from fiction, ads from program content. You’ll need to do some interpretation.
- Make sure babysitters and other caregivers know your viewing rules.
- Above all, model TV viewing for your child. If you’re sitting in front of the screen for hours, he’ll want to know why he can’t, too.
Here is a list of my favorite programs for 2 to 5 year olds:
Odd Squad (PBS Kids) – teaches math concepts
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (PBS Kids) – teaches social skills, best for kids under 4 (preschool readiness)
Wild Kratts (PBS Kids) – teaches about animals around the world—the science behind animals
Octonauts (Disney Junior) – features marine animal education
Word World (PBS Kids) – focuses on spelling, vocabulary, definitions (kindergarten age)
Sid the Science Kid (PBS Kids) – teaches fun facts about science (preschool to kindergarten)
Peep and the Big Wide World (PBS Kids, TLC, Discovery Kids) – a show featuring birds
Street (PBS and HBO) – teaches Literacy, math, social and emotional that engage in problem solving
Super Why (PBS Kids and Sprout) – teaches letter sounds, names, rhyming, problem solving (preschool readiness)
Little Einsteins (Disney Junior) – features Music, art appreciation, science
Magic School Bus (series on both Netflix and YouTube) – takes kids on a virtual bus ride or field trip, learning about their environment and science
Sesame Street—preschool concepts
Doc McStuffins (Disney Junior) – a smart capable little girl teaches that everyone gets sick and has fears at times, addresses many issues
Watch the segment now: Studio 5: Guilt free TV