Kristy Brown is a Speech Language Pathologist and mother of 4 year-old John Lleyton Brown. Kristy met the love of her life (J. Greg Brown) on a blind date in 2004 and they’ve been married for almost six years. As a family, The Brown’s enjoy traveling, four-wheeling, and gardening. Kristy lives by two very important quotes: :Never judge a book by its cover” and “This too shall pass”. Kristy’s hobbies include blogging, reading, any type of puzzle, and her job (she LOVES her job!). After graduation with her Masters in Communication Disorders in 1999, she has worked with the Fayetteville Public Schools, a local private therapy clinic, and now co-owns Arkansas Regional Therapy Services, LLC, which provides speech therapy to the NWA community from birth to adults. In regards to her job, her passion would be the hearing impaired population or children with unique needs such as a child with Cleft Palate or syndromes/chromosomal disorders. She believes the best job EVER, is being a mother. You can keep up with the Brown’s at thebrowns2012.blogspot.com
Because of my profession, I often get asked questions where a parent wants my opinion as a professional and as a parent. I always preface my answer with “I will give you my opinions and you can take it or leave it, but since you asked, that means you must trust my opinions, so here it goes…..”
One of the number one questions I get is, “Is it okay for my child to watch TV and/or play video games”. “Yes, but everything in moderation”. Studies for or against this issue can be found all over the web or in books. But I have based my opinion on what I have seen personally with my own son, his peers, and among clients.
TV shows today can be very educational. I have found that teaching children basic concepts can be done very easily, but they sure do enjoy it even more coming from a red fuzzy puppet, or with wonderful classical music in the background (Baby Einstein). I often would introduce a concept or idea that I wanted my child to learn and used TV or Books as a back up resource. I tend to prefer shows without commercials (netflix/DVD’s/Amazon videos/YouTube Nursery Rhymes, etc. I now really like Dora for her length in time she gives to respond and the skills she addresses). I think commercials interrupt the thought process and break up the shows too often—-just my opinion. If you can find some of their favorite shows on DVD, in a 30 minute episode, I feel that is perfect! Once again, everything in moderation. I preferred my child to watch TV during times I was not 100% available or able to focus on him. Such as in the car on the commute to work or while I was cooking dinner. Some of my favorite DVD’s were Sesame Street, Baby Einstein (we watched these until we were almost three and are great for learning sign language!), and a show on Netflix called Kipper (he has such great manners!). I also cannot underestimate the concepts in the My Baby Can Read program.
TV shows are also great rewards! I am a big fan of reward systems and visual schedules. We allowed time every night for our child to get a reward and his TV time was put on a visual schedule to show that there would be time for it if our other tasks were done. All of this can be changed for the age of your child. When my son was two, he has to do certain things such as pick up toys, help mommy wipe the table, or even help brush his teeth before he could watch anything on TV that day. Now that he is four, he understands certain things have to be done without objection like taking a bath, keeping toys picked up, and helping with laundry. It’s also his job to help check the mail and feed the pets. We still do TV during dinner prep. He hardly asks for TV so there are nights we don’t do TV at all.
Visual Schedule: Some parents don’t like to use TV as a reward so I just encourage building into the child’s visual schedule for the day. For example you might have a picture for breakfast, structured play time, outside time, TV time, lunch, nap, etc. This way the child knows it is available at some point during the day.
I feel the same concepts and ideas can be applied to video games. Because my clinic works with a lot of children on the Autism spectrum, it can be quite different for them. They often prefer video games over social interaction. This is where moderation is the key. A child on the spectrum may also not be as adept at sports as his peers and be very good at video games. Keep this in mind when you look at how much time his peers are doing things they enjoy, such as playing soccer, baseball practice, etc. You can also balance the time with requiring them to attend so many social events each week/month or playing board games. This way, the child is still getting to do what they love, but it is in moderation. A time limit is also a good idea because, just like his peers, they are not allowed to ‘practice’ all night.
Before I wrote this I took a week to look at how much TV my son watched (he is four). We watched a 30 minute episode of Kipper as dinner was prepared one night. I let him finish as he ate dinner. One other night, on the way home, he asked to watch Calliou on my phone. This was another 30 minute show. So, for one week, we watched an hour of TV. He is allowed to watch TV in the morning while I am getting ready, but for this week he never asked for it to be turned on. We don’t own any video gaming systems so I’m not sure when my son will pick up on how fun that can be! I have tried the Wii with him at social gatherings and he seems so delayed when playing those games when compared to his peers. I think this is just due to exposure and just pure genetics. I was always horrible at video games.
In the end, if you can balance TV or video games with interactive activities such as reading, puzzles, and social routines such as planting a garden, making homemade play doh, weeding the garden, or even painting the back fence with just water, I think you will find TV/video games can fall to the wayside for longer periods of time. They have many great things to offer when you can’t be there physically to teach those things to your child, but ultimately, nothing can replace your personal interaction!