In the the news this week is a research paper published in the journal Paediatrics,which found that “fast-paced, fantasy television programmes”, such as SpongeBob SquarePants, might compromise a young child’s “executive function” – their ability to pay attention, problem-solve and control their behaviour. This has sparked wide ranging discussion and debates over the airwaves and on the internet.
While SpongeBob does not feature in our family viewing, the issues raised remind me of an experience I had in the last few weeks, where I found my 3 year old son (DS) being increasingly drawn into the fantasy world of the animated characters from Bob the Builder. Despite only having limited viewing of the programme, he, like many boys his age, is mad about Bob and his cohort…Bob not only becomes the favourite programme, but he pops up throughout the day be it through clothes, play or conversation. I found that this programme had driven DS’ imagination into overload and that he was living this fantasy world throughout the day, resulting in it being hard to reach him. It felt a bit like we had a 3 year old teenager in the house.
So, what did I do? I realised that the priority was to reconnect with him, so set about spending some focused time following his lead in play…unsurprisingly involving diggers and loaders etc. While this did mean we were interacting, I really felt we needed to get away from imaginative play for a while, so now that we had a growing connection again, I introduced some active and rough and tumble play (an important form of play, particularly for boys)…and it worked. We were soon playing falling over on the lawn and laughing until it hurt.
Maybe its not so much an issue of who, what, how much or when our child watches TV, but rather the importance of truly connecting with our child as often as possible.