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3 Good Reasons Watching TV Can Actually Be Good for Kids

3 Good Reasons Watching TV Can Actually Be Good for Kids

Throughout history, many parents have been very particular about how their children spend their time, and with good reason. The children are the future, as they say, so naturally, parents would want to be reassured that their children’s time is spent on activities that nurture their growth and development.

However, there seems to have been some level of disconnect between what parents consider beneficial for kids, and what kids actually want to do. Chalk it up to a generational gap or some inability to communicate, but for whatever reason, parents seem to have taken a rather dim view of how their children spend their time. Once upon a time, an activity like reading, now widely considered one of the most vital in personal development, was considered a waste of time and even licentious. More recently, activities that have drawn an arched eyebrow from parents include video games, using the internet, and watching TV.

While all three forms of media do have content that some might find objectionable, this is no reason to consider the entire activity worthless. Here are a few reasons why watching TV might actually be good for kids. Some of them might even convince you to buy smart TV today.

It Can Put Children in the Right Headspace for Learning

With some careful guidance from parents, watching TV can be an incredible tool for facilitating and supporting learning in children, even if these children have yet to begin formal schooling. In one study published in the journal Media Psychology, children of ages five and younger were divided into two groups, and were made to watch episodes of the popular educational kids’ show Dora the Explorer. One group was shown a version of the show that contained participatory cues, or built-in invitations to the viewer to participate, such as questions being posed to the viewer. The other group watched a version that did not have these cues, and both groups of children were assessed for familiarity with the show and its most salient features. Naturally, some children knew about the show and had seen it before, while some did not. Both groups were given an educational retention test after watching the shows.

The results? While retention seemed unaffected by whether the show included the participatory cues or not, retention seemed to correlate positively with whether the children were familiar with the show already. This indicates that even prior to watching the show, children who knew about it and its mechanics already associated it with learning and could prepare themselves to retain whatever information was being delivered to them.

It Can Encourage Active Participation in Media

Even pediatricians, who once were some of the most strident voices against screen time for children, have taken a step back in their positions about it. They recognize that, when done right, watching TV can allow children to engage with media in ways that are healthy and developmentally positive.

Usually this requires the presence of a parent or guardian while the child is watching their show. As they watch, parents are encouraged to ask their children questions about what they’re being shown. Questions like “How did that scene make you feel?”, “What would you have done in that situation?”, and “Why do you think he said that?”, as well as positive statements such as “If anything like that happens, I hope you’d tell us”, encourage children to think critically about what they’re being shown. These also encourage them to process information and to be communicative about what they’re thinking and feeling.

Developmental pediatricians are hopeful that this capacity to be critical about content and information will be brought through to the child’s adult life. It should also be noted that this kind of activity has the added benefit of further deepening the bond between parent and child.

It Can Drive Curiosity and Learning Away from TV

By being exposed to ideas and concepts that they may not otherwise have access to, children are given a glimpse of the world beyond what’s familiar to them, encouraging them to experiment with and experience it on their own. Watching Dora visit historically significant places like the Egyptian pyramids may trigger their curiosity about the country itself. Learning about math from a show like Peg + Cat may give their relationship with numbers and quantitative data a friendlier, more accessible foundation.

Parents can even facilitate this and make “unplugged” learning even more relevant for kids. Fans of the detective show Blue’s Clues, for example, might enjoy a real-life scavenger hunt designed by parents, to reinforce the need to be observant and critical that the show espouses.

The most important thing to remember is that like all forms of media, television is a tool, and in and of itself, it’s neither helpful nor harmful to the development of a child. What matters most is the content that’s consumed while watching TV, as well as balancing the child’s time with other activities aside from watching.

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