Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Step away from the cartoons!

Oftentimes, parents will simply plop their kids down in front of the tv and enjoy some free time, tv becomes a built in babysitter! Don't let the tv raise your kids! Shows, movies, and advertisements all send subliminal messages through their teachings and can wire children to think a certain way. (Not saying it always does, but there are many studies showing the effects of subliminal messages)

One day, I propose you take some time out from the daily hustle and bustle of chores and work, sit down with your kids and watch the same shows they watch. Ask yourself: Does this send a good message? What does it encourage? Is it possible that these cartoons are affecting the development and growth of my children?

"More than 4,000 studies have proven that the behavior of children is affected by their TV watching habits. You cannot let false images and wrong ideals distort the future of your children."
If you do allow your kids to watch tv, make sure to think about the quality. They can impart ideas and thoughts to your child, teach bad lessons, a study even found that fast-paced cartoons can  impair concentration and short-term memory (sorry Tom & Jerry fans.)
An article specifically spoke about Spongebob, which besides maybe impairing concentration and memory, is a pretty useless show. It teaches kids no good lessons or morals and is basically about...well, nothing.
"After viewing the fast-paced cartoon, kids also showed less ability to delay gratification and to follow rules than the other groups."

I know people use tv sometimes to occupy children, make them settle down while the parents are doing other things, but really your children will be better behaved when they learn that even if mom (or dad ) is busy cooking, cleaning, or maybe talking to one of their siblings, they need to learn that they don't need to occupy your attention 24/7.
"Most toddlers and preschoolers who have never been exposed to TV and computer are used to keeping themselves occupied, and they stay busy
I should caution you that kids won't be able to occupy themselves if you have not spent any time that day with your child -- he needs his fix of parental attention and only something as engaging as TV or computer will divert him."
Some claim that "educational cartoons" help children to grow and learn. But children learned just fine before we had "baby educational programs" or "apps" designed to help babies learn. These things can be helpful, but are they necessary? No. It kind of upsets me nowadays when every other mother buys an iPad just for the children, so they can keep entertained and quiet at all times. Kids are bored? Let them be bored! Let them learn how to use time in a good way so that boredom is not an option. Boredom is really your mind's way of telling you that you need goals and aims in your life, it's a sign to children to interact and discover more about the world around them. Parents train their children to be quiet and obey them at all times, and then when the children grow up, the parents wonder "Why doesn't my kid want to talk to me? Why do they prefer to watch tv?" "Why doesn't he/she share their problems with me or spend time with me?" The best thing to help a baby develop and grow is interacting with them.

This is not to say that kids shouldn't ever relax a bit with some tv, I've instigated my share of "Frozen" showings at my house.
Not everything on tv is bad, and it's okay for kids to watch something lighthearted and fun every once in a while, but this should not be their main source of entertainment. When you're bored, flip on the tv. Teach kids to find ways to entertain themselves, if all their free time is spent latched to the tv, they will have no time to develop new interests, hobbies, and ideas. Help them to expand their way of thinking instead of simply being told how to think.
Honestly, most kids would probably love spending time doing fun games or even Islamic learning activities with their parents more than watching tv. But nowadays, parents have such busy schedules that they don't always make this a priority. Parenting is a full time job, don't let the tv or the iPad raise your kids.

Even here in Jordan there are a lot of "Anti-Islamic" shows aired on tv. Families gather around the tv, watching Turkish romance series or Arab Idol, is this the new "Family time?"
Instead of these options, spend time watching something educational. Watch a documentary. These sites offer good documentaries, but stay in the "nature, animals or science" section to make sure it's appropriate for kids, some of the history selections might be also.
Below are some good sites for Islamic crafts/computer games/etc.
This website explains ayahs of the Quran in a way that's easy for kids to understand
This youtube channel has great videos for children: anasheed, stories of the Prophets, and videos to help learn Qur'an

Remember that things like tv and computers can be great resources for helping kids learn- but these things cannot be navigated by the child to do whatever he likes. They have to be used with the help and guidance of parents. If you don't have the time to watch the educational documentary with them, or play the Islamic game with them, then ask them to tell you what they learned from it after they're done. Tell them it's "Their turn to teach you something!" This will encourage kids to think and use critical logic while watching, not just sit mindlessly in front of the tv. One good piece of advice in a recent article said to have them write a short report explaining what they watched. Even if you do let your kids watch cartoons occasionally, if you ask them to tell you about it and explain it, you can help them to pinpoint what was right and wrong about what they watched- believe it or not, a lot of the cartoons out there are not "kid-friendly" but the people who market these are taking advantage of the fact that the everyday parent doesn't have time to evaluate everything their kid watches.

Some people claim that limiting tv or even prohibiting their children from watching tv all together is too hard and not realistic in modern society, and that's true, it is hard, especially the way parents condition their children now a days, I've seen children throw tantrums if the tv is switched off while watching their favorite show.
I think eliminating tv in the first few years (0-5) of the child's life is the best choice, put the tv somewhere where it's not visible or on all the time. It's kind of like the issue of soda, if your child never tastes soda, and never sees you drinking it, is he going to care if you never serve him soda? Is he going to throw a tantrum at the restaurant if you don't let him order one? No, same goes with tv. If you don't form that dependency and attachment from a young age, your child is not going to think he is missing anything.

Ted Talk: Media and children
The following site offers some great Islamic guidelines for tv and children.

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