Shocking but true. By the time your grandchild graduates from high school, they will have logged in 11,000 hours in school, but more than 15,000 hours watching TV and sitting in front of a computer.
The internet is an excellent educational tool and there are many great programs on TV, but too much time spent sitting in front of a screen is not good for children. Working on the computer and watching TV are sedentary activities that are linked with childhood obesity. Be aware that children can develop distorted views of society by watching TV or playing on the computer in an unsupervised manner.
What can a grandparent do?
What can a grandparent do to lure their grandchildren away from the distractions of video games or chatting with their friends online? Dr. John P. Murray offers some advice to parents and grandparents when it comes to the viewing habits of their young. He urges a review of the “balance” of a child’s daily activities. Danger signs of an out-of-balance child include choosing to watch TV or play on the computer instead of spending time with friends, talking only about TV programs or characters, etc. and not performing well at school. If you see this pattern in your grandchildren, it might be best to discuss cutting back on TV and computer time with their parents.
Some experts suggest that preschoolers watch no more than one hour of TV a day and elementary school children no more than two hours a day. Dr. Murray also suggests keeping a time chart of children’s activities, including hobbies, sports, chores, playing with friends, reading books, and doing homework. Parents and grandparents can use the time chart to structure an appropriate balance of activities in the child’s life.
- At the beginning of the week, you can select the programs or websites your child is allowed to view or visit. Rule out TV or computer time before breakfast, school nights (unless for homework), dinner time and so on. Children should not have their own TV set in their bedroom. Lock-out devices on cable TV can be helpful in establishing a healthy rhythm of TV watching. Make sure to select the option on your computer that restricts children from accessing certain websites.
- You can make the most of what TV has to offer by watching programs together with your grandchildren and discussing the contents afterward. Rooting for the same sports team on TV and then going outside to have a catch or throw can be a fun, shared experience for everyone. Or you could both watch a cooking show, then try and recreate the dishes together in the kitchen. You and your grandchild can sit down in front of the computer and research your shared ancestry. You can also Google the era in which you were born to share the photos, music and history of the period with your grandchild.
- Encourage your grandchildren to learn by diverse means. Read newspapers and books. Listen to the radio. Attend live sports events and concerts. Encourage them to meet and interact with people of different age groups and ethnic backgrounds.
- Lastly, examine your own habits. If you spend too much time on the couch or in front of the computer, your grandchild will imitate your lifestyle. Instead, take your grandchild’s hand and go on a bike ride, swim or just take a walk together in the fresh air.
So if your grandchild spends too much time sitting and staring at the TV or computer screen, use the above techniques to focus their energies elsewhere. In addition, feel free to use the good things that TV and the internet offer as a chance to foster your “vital connection” with your grandchild.