Debate: Is it irresponsible for parents to let children watch all the TV they like?


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The Independent Online


What's going on?

A new study encourages parents to monitor and restrict the television viewing and videogame-playing time of their children, as watching less TV was shown to improve behaviour, school performance, and the amount children sleep.

The data was collected in a survey of 1,300 children.

The lead author, Dr Douglas Gentile, of Iowa State University, said: "Paediatricians, family practitioners, nurses and other health care professionals who encourage parents to be more involved in their children's media may be much more effective at improving a wide range of healthy behaviours than they realise."

So, is this a spur to wrestle away control of the TV remote?

Case for

Forget about studies for a moment and use your common sense. What good does it do a child to sit in front of a screen and gawp for hours on end? Videogames aren't any better; they suck the young into a feedback-loop which gives the illusion of progress ('congratulations, you levelled up!') while in fact keeping developing brains stuck on a plateau. It may be unfashionable, or even seen as cruel, but parents should crack the whip: get those sprogs outside or, failing that, minimise the time they spend on 'media devices' and maximise the time in front of something useful. A book, perhaps.

Case against

Again, the Hair Shirt School of Parenting speaks. When will they learn? There's no need to worry about kids using screens: the entire world runs on them. You cannot stop a new generation growing up as 'digital natives', nor should you try. Kids learn and relax using media devices. They can use what shows they watch and games they play to form lasting friendships. Of course, if we wanted to get technical, research shows that kids who watch three hours or more of TV a day are at no greater risk of emotional problems than other children. Face it: times have changed... and not everyone can afford a nanny.

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