Making sense of the media

Darrell Cole
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How much TV is too much for young children?

Donna Farrell of Maggie’s Place Family Resource Centre works on her computer. Maggie’s Place is hosting a session for parents on making sense of the media on Tuesday beginning at 6 p.m. 

AMHERST – Too much screen time at a young age can be harmful to your child’s development. It’s a message representatives from Maggie’s Place will be talking about during a presentation on Tuesday night at the family resource centre on Elmwood Drive.

The session begins at 6 p.m. and registration is still being accepted at 667-7250.

“We’re going to talk about how much screen time is appropriate for children and some of the things they are exposed to on television and the computer,” Donna Farrell of Maggie’s Place said Monday. “We’re going to talk about screen time and young children ages zero to three and how their young brains are developing. We’re going to talk about how screen time can affect the development of the brain.”

Children today are literally bombarded with media messages from a variety of sources, including television, the Internet and various social media sites like Facebook and YouTube. Farrell said there are also a growing number of young children with cellphones.

It’s recommended that children up to age three have no exposure to television or the computer, while for older children screen time is supposed to be limited to just a few hours a week. Unfortunately, she said, many children plunked in front of the television with parents having little or no idea what they’re watching.

A study by Dr. Dimitri Christakis in 2004 showed that early television exposure in children leads to attention problems by age seven. His study, that looked at 1,278 children at age one and 1,345 children at age three, found 10 per cent experienced problems with attention spans and being able to focus by age seven.

“Up to age 3 children need to see people’s faces, they need to playing and interacting with other children,” Farrell said. “Even later on, it should be no more than 1.5 to two hours a day.”

She said the session will talk about the benefits of educational programming versus entertainment or fast-paced shows. Exposure to action cartoons and programs, she said, can impact a child’s development and their ability to focus on single tasks.

“Faster-paced shows and cartoons can lead to children who cannot pay attention,” Farrell said. “There are so many messages coming in at once that the child’s brain is not able to sort through them all. They have hard time focusing and it’s something that affects them as they get older.”

Farrell said it’s also important for parents to take the time to watch television with their children and be aware of what they’re looking at on the Internet.

She said there are a number of health issues with excess time in front of the TV or computer. One in four Canadian children are overweight or obese and 50 per cent of children ages five to 17 are not active enough for optimal growth and development.







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