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Should we allow our baby watch TV?

Many future parents vow that they will never allow any of their babies near a television screen until they are out of nappies and into reading books in a big way. This is a very admirable stance, but it is one that will likely change as the long sleepless nights, toddler tantrums and the sheer need for five at least minutes peace become a reality.

Major companies and television channels have tapped into this primal parental need, and the existence of children only channels has come about to ensure that children have their own entertainment during daylight hours. Many of these programmes have been designed and written by educationalists, which appeases our sensibility about the suitability of what our children are watching.

Is watching television a good idea for babies and toddlers? Most parents hope to strike a happy balance when it comes to television. Nearly all parents adjust and form a reasonably responsible attitude towards television viewing; trying to ensure that their children only watch educationally approved programmes for specific times during the day.

How can programmes are that specifically designed to be educational be bad for brain development and learning? It's not the content of the programmes that's bad but the activity of watching television.  While watching television certain parts of the brain are not being stimulated, while other parts of the brain are being used. The key to good and steady development in babies is to provide a wide variety of activities and television may be included, but use it to make a good way to pass time.

Unsupervised television watching is never a good idea. By following your common sense and a few simple rules of thumb, you can enjoy time with your baby in front of the telly and relax with the knowledge that they will benefiting from the experience (time with you and stimulating programming).
  • Make the programming age appropriate - you may enjoy Coronation Street but your baby will not get much educational value.
  • Make sure that it is educational - programmes should have good educational content, where they can learn about colours, language or animals.
  • Make this time a time to interact - share the experience with your baby. Talk to them about what you are watching. This makes it a little more of a learning experience.
  • Make watching television part of a variety of activities - No one, single activity no matter how good it is, is not beneficial if it's the only thing that the baby is exposed to.
  • Be prepared to use the 'off' button! Don't be afraid to switch off the television and do something different.

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