Teachers should encourage parents to limit the amount of time young children spend watching television to protect their physical and mental health, according to a researcher on child health.
Writing in today’s TES, Trina Hinkley argues that claims of the educational benefits of TV are overblown and that a significant body of research shows that it has harmful effects.
Hinkley, a researcher in the Faculty of Health at Deakin University in Australia, has carried out and reviewed studies into the amount of time children spend watching TV and other electronic media. The effect on school performance means that teachers have a responsibility to talk to parents about restricting TV watching for young children, she says.
“Children who watch more TV tend to have a higher risk of being overweight or obese and to have poorer cognitive development for their age – including language development and the ability to pay attention, both of which are key to school-readiness,” she writes.
“Teachers in primary schools need to educate parents and set the record straight if children are to fulfil their potential,” she adds.
Although UK guidelines are vague, in Canada and Australia the recommendation for young children is no more than an hour of electronic media a day.
Hinkley says teachers should take the opportunity to discuss the dangers of too much TV when parents enrol their children at school. Information could be included in welcome packs and welcome meetings to avoid overloading staff with too much additional work, she says.
“Educators have an important role to play in informing and supporting parents on this topic,” Hinkley argues. “Many parents are unaware of the possible risks for their children and do not have access to the evidence. Schools can act as a conduit for information, leading to considerable benefits for all involved.”
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