Television and children: uses and abuses
Calm the cries, opens the appetite, induces sleep and greatly distracts children. It seems the definitive solution to our desperation as parents and yet it is nothing other than television! It is demonstrated that, in spite of all these things, its abusive use subtracts hours from other activities of great importance such as playing with peers, reading and carrying out school tasks. Television for children is, therefore, productive only in its proper measure.
Keys so that 'do not pass' watching television
Several studies show that children exceed the recommended hours of exposure to television, even reaching four hours on average. The child psychologist Elena Villa stresses the importance of setting limits to television and of preventing children from becoming "mere passive objects on the screen". He considers this aspect "vital for his good development" because he assures that the excessive consumption of television is directly related to an "increase of sedentary life, poor diet, problems of overweight and social isolation".
The Spanish Association of Pediatrics recommends a maximum of half an hour per day for children under three years and two hours for adults. This is due, among other things, to the fact that babies need to interact with adults because the constant exchange of stimuli is fundamental for the development of their brain and their emotional, intellectual and social faculties.
Control of television content for children
But, given the disadvantages, we have to admit that television is undoubtedly a very powerful tool from the educational and cultural point of view. We must not cross it therefore as something only negative.
Elena Villa argues that "if used properly, it can be very useful and contribute a lot of good things to our children". What happens is that children often have difficulty distinguishing fiction from reality. That's why we have to help them choose the right programs for their level of development and put limits on television hours.
In this sense, the professor of Constitutional Law in the Specialty of Information Law of the CEU San Pablo University, Leopoldo Abad, assures that there must be "shared responsibility" between television and families. As an argument to his words and in reference to the Spanish framework, the teacher refers to the current legislation. More specifically to Article seventh of the General Law of Audiovisual Communication, which is the one that attends to the rights of the minor. This attributes to the competent audiovisual authority the task of promoting a series of codes of conduct among the different television channels. In this way service providers have the obligation to develop a catalog of programs separate from the generic for those contents that may seriously harm the physical, mental or moral development of minors. In addition, all products must have an age rating approved by the Code of Self-regulation of Television and Children's Contents and it will be the Ministry of Industry who is responsible for checking compliance with all these standards.
Leopoldo Abad recalls, for the interest of parents, that there is also an agreement between consumers, users and television channels that is specified in the web portal "Television and Children". In it, the overreach is denounced and the sanctions that have been imposed on audiovisual material are published up to now.
Recommendations for a good use of television
The recommendations of Elena Villa for the use of television:
- Help the child choose appropriate programs for their level of development
- Set limits to television hours
- Turn off the television during meals and study hours
- Explain to the child why it is not advisable to see certain content
- Do not use television to punish the child, since the child can increase the value of television
The television time slot for children
As parents, it is our responsibility to know that, in Spain, there are three periods of reinforced communication that take as reference the peninsular time. In the rest of Europe, the legal specifications are similar because all our regulations, as Abad clarifies, are derived from a European directive. In this way we can say that, in general, It is not recommended to expose children to television between 8 am and 9 am and between 5 pm and 8 pm, in the case of working days, and between 9 am and 12 pm on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. state. To these time slots we must add the limits of each age.
Company, is what children need to watch television
As Elena Villa points out, up to two years it is advisable that the child always watch television in the company of an adult. Already at three years, the child is able to maintain attention on television for short periods of time but, up to six, does not know how to distinguish fiction and reality and interprets what he sees exclusively depending on the context. This group is especially sensitive, so you have to pay attention. Between seven and 12 years, children are already in the stage of concrete logical thinking and begin to understand the relationships cause effect. It is convenient to monitor what they see and to teach children to watch television, because to these things we must add their proximity to adolescence, a stage in which we will have to invent them to gradually promote their critical thinking and reflection.
In another order of things, recalls Villa, parents should be careful with content that exalts violence, aggressiveness, sexuality, individualism or violation of the values of society. "When a child or adolescent is exposed to a lot of violence, a desensitization is produced within them and it is likely that they will learn the violence patterns they have learned," says the psychologist. If parents have serious difficulties establishing controls and limits or concerns about the child's reaction to television, they should consult a specialist to help them and offer a series of guidelines to follow.
Advisors: Elena Villa, child psychologist and Leopoldo Abad, Professor of Constitutional Law in the Specialty of Information Law of the CEU San Pablo University