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Parents are among the biggest aficionados of cartoon-film makers; what else brings an instant smile on the baby’s face? We have all relied on cartoons, every now and then, to keep the baby entertained or to calm a tantrum. Lately, the spate of educational cartoons has even made it possible to teach kids important developmental skills just by viewing these films. However, there is a darker side to this situation. Cartoon films can be very damaging to a growing child’s development if we don’t follow the required precautions while our kids watch them.
If your baby watches cartoons even occasionally, please make sure you follow these expert-recommended precautions. They are critical for his physical as well as emotional health as he grows up.
1. NO Screen Time For Babies Under Two
If your baby is under two years old, it is recommended to limit his screen time to ZERO. As per experts, babies younger than two years old view TV as confusing. It seems like an array of colours, images and sounds that they don’t understand. Television and child development have little connection at this time, so exposing kids of this age to TV content is not a great idea. In fact, TV can actually affect babies of this age negatively, and cause over-stimulation, crankiness, and difficulty in falling asleep.
2. MONITOR Cartoons For Violent Content
A lot of TV content has now become exceedingly violent, and this is true even for cartoons. Many children’s shows are filled with images of violence that may seem harmless and jovial but actually send out very wrong messages. In fact, many children’s shows almost look like animated versions of adult action films!
Warning: Also look out for cartoons that subliminally spread the wrong ideas about racism, skin-colour-led discrimination, gender bias, and sexual content.
As per research, exposure to such content directly increases the risk of aggressive behaviour and also desensitizes your child to violence. Please make sure you select and monitor what your child watches on TV. Check out these expert-approved TV shows for kids that are both entertaining and educational.
3. EXPLAIN To Your Child That Cartoon Characters Are Not Real
No, we don’t mean curtailing your child’s imagination or killing his fantasy world. However, babies and toddlers often find it difficult to differentiate between reality and fantasy. If they see something frightening as part of a TV cartoon, they may tend to believe that it actually exists in the world around them. This can induce fear, restlessness and confusion.
Please talk to your child about this and explain that what he sees on TV is not part of the real world. The cartoon characters are created by artists and do not live inside the TV set. ||
4. PROTECT Your Child’s Eyes From Damage
Over-exposure to cartoons and excessive TV viewing through the day can, unsurprisingly, damage your child’s eyes. The bright visuals and stimulation can put pressure on your child’s gentle eyes and increase risk of problems such as eye strain, sensitivity or short-sightedness.
Make sure your child is sitting at a good distance from the TV set and avoid handing over tablets that require to be stared at for watching. Also keep the lighting of the room adequate and discourage TV watching in the dark. If your child is watching a cartoon program that lasts an hour, make sure he takes a break every few minutes. You can do this by making him look away from the screen, taking a walk around the house, etc.
5. PROTECT Your Child From Cartoon Addiction
Television in general can be addictive, and cartoons so much more so! The fun, musical, animated characters can really light up your kid’s world and make him want to keep watching them for hours. However, getting addicted to cartoons is very unhealthy both for their eyes and for their natural creativity. All the time that goes into TV is time lost for physical activity, family bonding, and finding new ways to keep themselves busy and entertained. Some studies also show that children who watch a lot of television in their early years are at greater risk for childhood obesity and inadequate social development.
Have a rule in place that limit your child’s TV watching every day, and stick to this rule regardless of tantrums. It should in no way be more than 30 minutes – 1 hour a day. As parents, we need to stop falling for the TV-as-a-babysitter trap!
6. WATCH Cartoons With Your Child
This precaution obliterates the idea of using TV as a baby-sitter. The reason many of us allow kids to watch TV is so we have some quiet time to finish our chores, or get rest. However, experts recommend that when possible, we need to watch cartoons along with our child. This will let us monitor the child’s reactions to what he’s seeing. While watching, you can ask questions and discuss what is being shown. If you don’t do this from time to time, the child cannot perceive his parent’s involvement in this activity. You will also miss out on some vital development cues/red flags that you can otherwise spot from your child’s reactions and expressions.
7. TV COMMERCIALS Must Also Be Monitored
It is not just the cartoon content that can contain violent or inappropriate messaging for the baby. A number of TV commercials also present the risk of graphic imagery or age-inappropriate visuals/language. Please regulate the television slot during which your child will be watching cartoons before you let him do so. If you have a set-top box recording option, you can choose to record the show without the commercials.
8. REFUSE To Allow Cartoon Watching In Bed/Bedroom
As a strict rule that allows for no negotiation, do NOT allow your child to stay up late watching cartoons. It has been seen that children who watch television till late at night get over-tired and cranky the next day. So, even when there are guests at home or your baby is being restless, avoid resorting to the TV.
Also, do not permit your child to have a TV in the bedroom or allow him to watch cartoons while in bed. A number of studies have linked TV viewing to sleep disorders!
Note: This rule also applies for meal-times. Do not allow kids to watch cartoons while eating as it can lower their interest in food, cultivate unhealthy eating habits, and also create addiction to TV. If you’re finding this difficult to implement, check out these expert-recommended tips to feed children without turning on the TV.