TV not the villain it's made out to be, say surveys

MUMBAI:Two diverse studies on kids' television viewing patterns would have us believe that while the couch potato is growing increasingly younger, television should not be blamed for converting young minds into mere receptacles of mindless programming.

Television is emerging a favourite baby sitter among parents in the US, according to a survey by Madison Direct Marketing. TV ranked second only to toys and comfortably beat other tactics like books and play when it comes to options for keeping children busy when parents are busy with other work. 63 per cent of respondents report they put on a favorite TV show or movie when they want their kids to stay busy for a while without needing parental attention. 45 per cent of parents reported their kids are watching one or two hours of TV per day, while 35 per cent reported their kids watching three or more hours per day. A good nine per cent reported their children watching an alarming five hours of television per day. 

The trend is hardly surprisingly if the parents' TV viewing habits are taken into account. According to the study that covered 290 households, 96 per cent of which reported children living in the house, watching TV (84 per cent) ranked highest among leisure activities, higher even than surfing the Internet (71 per cent) and watching movies (44 per cent). 

Another survey, this time on the other side of the globe, has found that some television programmes, far from producing couch potatoes, stimulate children's imaginations and teach valuable social skills. The study, conducted by Melbourne's La Trobe University at the behest of US TV company Buena Vista Home Entertainment - showed children were not passive viewers, but interacted with programmes by singing, dancing and mimicking voices, said study director Helen Skouteris. The study involved 314 mothers of children aged between three and six.

Chief researcher Helen Skouteris says she has been pleasantly surprised to find Australian children are also watching less videos than their US counterparts. The survey also found 10 per cent of mothers said their children's favourite programmes or videos portrayed violence, such as cartoons like Digimon or Pokemon. The overall conclusion was it was healthy for children to watch television "in moderation".

Programmes that encouraged interaction included Bob The Builder and the animated film Shrek.

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