Is Peppa Pig Actually A Bad Influence?
There's no doubt that the readily available stream of children's television programmes on youtube and iplayer can be a lifesaver for long car journeys, stroppy mealtimes, and moments of blissful peace; but how does what they watch, and how much they watch affect behaviour?
Let’s be honest: Bing whines a lot, Peppa Pig can be obnoxious, and even the Teletubbies love to throw tubby custard around.
Some parents are now banning certain programmes which appear to encourage bad behaviour; complaining that children are throwing more tantrums; have adopted George Pig’s fussy eating habits and exclamations of ‘Yuk’; or are mistreating their siblings.
But when many of us grew up with the Magic Roundabout in which at least one character was clearly on drugs (in hindsight), has anything really changed with the suitability of programming; or is it the infinite availability that’s the real issue? After all, episodes are usually resolved with a happy ending and a quaint moral, just like the good old days!
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With 24/7 access to shows, and children showing an almost superhuman ability to understand technology from birth; it may be the ability to binge watch that causes many of these issues. This isn’t to suggest that children have been abandoned for days in front of screens, but with episodes lasting as little as 5 minutes, and the option to watch the same thing over and over, you don't need long to see, and adopt, repetitive patterns of bad behaviour.
So what can we do?1. Limit screen time
The critical time for brain growth is the first three years of life, so it’s particularly important for small children to interact eye to eye, rather than watching a screen. That’s why it’s recommended that children under two should have no regular screen time; and that children over the age of two should be limited to 1 or 2 hours a day. It also helps if you can show a good example, by not having too many screens on constantly in the background of daily life.
2. Mix Things Up
We know many children are creatures of habit, and want to watch the same thing over and over. But alternating what they watch, and mixing different types/styles of show can help prevent kids becoming too focused on one particular behaviour. Maybe you could mix up who chooses what to watch, or challenge them to pick something new?
Sometimes screen time provides a valuable moment of freedom for moms; but where possible, watch shows together. Sing the songs, do the dance moves, and ask questions about what they think. This not only engages their brains and bodies more, but also helps them to understand what they’re watching. After all, they’re still working out emotions, and how far they can push the boundaries!
Chances are, you now spend time watching programmes you couldn't even imagine before you became a mom. So what are your favourites, and which ones can't you stand? Do you think certain programmes affect your kids' behaviour? We'd love to hear from you in the comments section below; or join the discussion through our social media channels.
And do you have a puddle jumping, custard throwing little monkey? Check out our 10 Steps To Better Toddler Behaviour.