As parents, it is very easy to see television as this all consuming monster that will give your child square eyes, but is a wonderful babysitter when you need twenty minutes alone, and while this is true, there are so many benefits to watching with your children!
Research has shown that having both parents and children spending time with media has a profound educational effect on children. While you might think that they will benefit more from watching less television, what actually needs to happen is that you join in with them! In a recent study, one of the key outcomes is that children learned key skills from the show when they were viewing it with their parents. It arises when parents and children discuss what is going on in the episode or film that they are watching.
You don’t even have to talk to your children about what is going on in the show, but your mere presence is enough to help your children learn. It has been argued that by having a parent watch TV with their children, it shows that the child is doing something important to the parent, and that their parent approves of what they are watching.
How to Enhance Learning from Screen Time
Shelley Pasnik the director of the Center for Children & Technology says that learning is driven by human interactions in young children.
“What young kids need are a lot of experiences that are built on contingency, so a child does something and an adult says something in response. It’s a back-and-forth,”
It’s important that kids know what they do has an effect. “And they’re going to get a response.” By responding to your children about what they are watching, it’s called ‘contingent engagement.’
The best programs to do this with are educational ones, such as Horrible Histories, Sesame Street, Nina and the Neurons, etc. A lot of kids shows do have this educational theme, however these ones are especially targeted at being educational and can help children retain more knowledge.
Pasnik says, “The more parents were involved and used the strategies, the more likely kids were going to experience the benefits of the media,”.
The Benefits of Active Viewing
Active viewing is encouraging children to engage with content they see on their screens. By engaging with it, they are interpreting what they are seeing, encouraging conversation.
“Parents talking about what they’re seeing either during the experience or afterwards can be important. We’re constantly translating and interpreting what we see on a screen or a particular device so the more an adult can encourage conversation around that experience the deeper the experience becomes.”
By asking open ended questions with your young children during screen time will encourage them to think about what they saw.
Sit and watch your children’s favourite show together
While it’s so easy to let TV become a babysitter, giving you some time to get on with housework or just 5 minutes peace and quite, but actually, if you leave the kitchen for 20 minutes, your children will get much more out of the shows they watch.
Give them positive reinforcement about what they are watching
Make sure that you don’t just use the time to zone out, as children like it when their parents know their favourite characters and shows. They will pay far more attention to the message, which will get them learning more.
Make sure you are watching child friendly content together
Like with most things, there is a reason why many programs have age ratings, and if children are watching programs with parents, then it is more likely that they will understand the adult themes more. If you want to watch your favourite program, it might be best to do so after they have gone to bed!
Make sure to make watching this program a ‘family activity’
There is something really special about making the time as a family to watch a program together, even if it is just once a week! They will be looking forward to this special parent and child time, and they will enjoy the program even more.
It helps them learn to self regulate
By making sure your children watch television with the types of lessons that you want them to learn is another reason why you should be co-watching. As children grow up, they will reflect on behaviour and decisions made in the TV show they are watching. When watching with your kids, you can see strategies in the shows, and discuss them with your children, which will help them regulate their emotions.