Education Quandary

Hilary's advice
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The Independent Online

This column is far too short to explain fully why.

Briefly, researchers from around the world have found that children who watch a lot of television grow up fatter than those who don't, are more anti-social, and less likely to finish school and get a degree. And academic performance in school is impaired - researchers in the United States found that eight-year-olds with televisions in their bedrooms get significantly poorer scores in standardised national tests than those without.

Of course, some research shows that good educational television programmes can help children develop language and knowledge, especially if the adults around them use the programmes as starting points for discussions.

But children with televisions in their bedrooms aren't watching good educational programmes, or sharing them with adults. What they are doing is soaking up all kinds of things - good, bad, indifferent - with no one to help them make sense of it all. And that's before you get onto the other issues of late bedtimes, too much stimulation, and homework done with one eye on the screen.

So take courage and explain to your children what the school has said, and that you agree. Be firm and set out a limited new television regime, making sure you sit and watch some of the chosen programmes with them.

Readers' advice

My children were each allowed a television in their bedroom from the age of 13, provided they watched agreed programmes and switched off at a proper time. It cut down on arguments and they knew what would happen if they ignored our rules. Everyone was happy. I do not think it is a school's job to dictate what goes on at home!

Karen Whitfield, South Glamorgan

I teach a Year One class and am often shocked at what my children tell me they have watched the night before. More and more of them have TVs in their rooms, but I can see they are often disturbed by things they have seen, and want to talk about them. I have raised this with parents, but get the feeling that many only want their children out of the way.

Emma Johnson, Bristol

Voluminous research and eminent authorities have detailed the dangers of addictive TV to children's developing brains. Why not conduct your own research‚ by limiting television viewing and observing the effects on your children, not only educationally, but also socially, behaviourally and creatively?

Richard House, Research Centre for Therapeutic Education Roehampton University

Next Week's Quandary

Dear Hilary,

Are there courses to teach children how to study? Having seen my daughter through AS level exams and with my son doing GCSEs, it seems to me that they can do prescribed tasks, but when it comes to extending beyond the course texts, managing time, and planning work and revision timetables, they don't seem to know how to do it.

Send your letters or quandaries to Hilary Wilce, to arrive no later than Monday 3 July to 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax: 020-7005 2143; or e-mail: h.wilce@btinternet.com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Berol Combi Pack of a cartridge pen, handwriting pen and ink eraser.

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