Fort Worth, Texas,
10:17 AM

Watching TV With Your Kids: Why Experts Say It Matters

Child psychologist explains the importance of being present with your kids

For most of you reading this, your kids already are home or will soon be out of school for Spring Break. Even if you have a big vacation planned, I know this time out of the classroom means more opportunity for screen time.

In today’s technologically driven world, it’s difficult to know how to accept the advancement of technology while also determining where to set boundaries as a parent. As a mom, I too struggle with this concept.

However, a study through Texas Tech University shows that there are actually positive effects on learning when a parent watches TV alongside their child. According to the study, when a parent is present while watching TV with their child physiological changes take place in the child’s body. The child exhibits more effort to learn from the program they are watching. This is important because parents often underestimate the power and influence they have over their child’s life. This study shows that by just being present with your child, you are having a positive impact on their ability to learn from the program being watched. It is important to note that this can happen when both positive and negative content is being displayed on the TV, which is why monitoring the type of shows your child is watching is even more important.

According to the authors, “Just being there is making a difference.” But, why is being present important?

Well, it provides your child the ability to ask questions and engage in a dialogue about the content being viewed. All too often the TV has become just another babysitting tool. However, I would encourage parents to see it as an opportunity. An opportunity to spend quality time with your child, to learn something educational, to be present, to understand your child’s interests and why they like the things they do.

It’s important to note, that “being present” may look differently depending on the age of your child. For a younger child, it may mean pointing out learning opportunities while watching shows (e.g. while watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, discussing what is happening/counting together, etc.). However, with an older child/adolescent, this may mean having conversations regarding the show being watched and addressing how it may/may not pertain to the child’s life. For example, if watching any type of news channel talking with your child about the events being depicted and how it may/may not impact their daily life. Topics may include things such as bullying, violence, political processes, funny videos that have gone viral, etc. Being present allows for the opportunity to open the lines of communication between you and your child. It allows for you, as the parent, to show interest and be able to influence their ability to learn from what they are seeing.

The authors bring up a great point when they state, “I think our focus needs to be on raising a generation of media-literate parents in order for them to make the difference for children that we really want to make.” In my opinion, it’s less about seeing technology in an all good or all bad manner, and more about seeing it as an opportunity to learn, engage in conversations, and explore our child’s interests with them. It’s about figuring out how to incorporate these technological advancements into our daily lives, while also deepening our relationships with our children and realizing the influence we continue to have over their lives.

Tips on being involved:

  • Be present and active
  • Sit next to your child
  • Ask questions
  • Discuss the content
  • Be mindful of what type of show is being watched
  • If developmentally appropriate, talk about events happening across our world and discuss your child’s views, opinions, and thoughts.

About the author

Amanda Jordan is a licensed psychologist at the Cook Children's Urgent Care and Pediatric Specialties -Alliance.Cook Children's Behavioral Health services provides a broad range of care that focuses on children from 3 years through 17, and thier families. We also have some limited services for children age 2. As part of family-centered care, all of our professionals are qualified both through education and experience to work with children who have behavioral and emotional challenges. Our psychiatrists are board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry and our psychologists and therapists are all licensed independently in Texas.

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Stephanie Golden
That's good information right there! And well thought-out and researched :-). Thanks Dr. Jordan for your positive contribution to preserving the psychological well-being of our children, that's all too critical for the times that we (and THEY) are living in! Great job :-) ~Stephanie