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Preschoolers school readiness hampered by TV

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TV sets, computers and even tablets have become a sort of salvation for many young parents. After a hard working day you want to relax. To sit comfortably in front of a screen and forget about your routine for a while. Plus it gives you a couple of hours of rest from your endlessly energetic child. They don’t demand much from you during this time as they enjoy watching the screen too.

As a result, many kids spend much more time in front of the screen than recommended. Whilst the AAP’s latest recommendations allow for much more flexibility when it comes to screen time for older children, very young children are advised against having any except for video chat with distant relatives and for preschoolers 1 hour a day is advised. Their recommendations cite a range of studies which suggest that excessive TV for young children can cause sleep difficulties and delays in speech, and both social and cognitive development.

New evidence

A recent study from NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and Université Sainte-Anne supports these recommendations. They found that watching television for more than a couple of hours a day can cause lower school readiness, particularly among children from low-income families. The kindergarten kids in the study were assessed using measures of math, knowledge of letters and words, and key cognitive and social-emotional competencies. All of which are fundamental indicators of school readiness. The researchers found that the number of hours of television young children watch is related to decreases in their school readiness, particularly their math skills and memory functions.

The findings strongly support the need for screen time limits such as those now provided by Kidslox parental controls for mobile devices.

Using screens while encouraging school readiness

It all sounds rather brutal, doesn’t it. What can we do then to minimise the bad influence of TV and electronic devices to our kids but still get the benefits of digital technologies at the same time?

  • Share screen time with your preschoolers. This will allow you to contextualise what they’re seeing and to provide a model for them. You can also help them to find the words to express their emotions.
  • Make a schedule and programs list for family time in front of the TV: check out the available programs for yourself, perhaps read a few reviews and make a list of approved shows. Note when they’re on and be deliberate about what you watch and how much time you spend with the TV.
  • Similarly, check out the apps you make available to your preschooler. Don’t just download it and leave them to it. Play together with them the first time and make sure that it’s high quality and a good fit for them.
  • Use a parental control app like Kidslox to place deliberate boundaries, including time limits on tablets and phones.
  • Turn the TV set off when you’re not watching it.
  • Don’t watch TV while eating (or let your child do the same).
  • And engage in plenty of family time with your children which doesn’t involve any screens at all.

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