It’s holiday time. School-going children would be proceeding to the next class come January 2018, meaning they have little or no homework over the two-months long holiday. The deal? Do what they rarely did during school time; watch TV. The content? Be the judge
It’s that time of the year again. Children are home for the long December holidays. To some, it means they can catch up on all those programmes they had missed on television during school time. The unpredicatable weather pattern, where it is raining most of the time only make things worse. Outdoor games and activities are, therefore, most of the time not ideal.
So there’s more TV than ever. Parents would want to believe that their children watch educational and fun material. But that’s too good to be true. With pay TV, children can access a lot of programmes, some unfortunately, unsuitable for their viewing.
So, there are more warnings than ever, and certainly more confusion than ever before. Recently, CEO Kenya Film Classification Board, Ezekiel Mutua banned a Disney Channel show that had a gay character from being aired in the country.
“Following public concerns about the introduction of the Andi Mack TV series on Disney Channel, the board issued a statement advising pay and free-to-air TV stations against airing the programme in Kenya as it contains content that is likely to influence children’s perception negatively on the institution of family,” he said. The show was on its second season.
Despite the move by the authority to ban particular cartoon programmes, there are still unregulated distributors selling unsuitable children video content. For instance, many of the video shops visited in Nairobi are still selling some of the banned cartoon series on DVDs. Musa Waweru, a video library owner in Nairobi, went further to mention that they would not stop selling the inappropriate DVDs as the business is their source of livelihood.
“This is where I earn my living and series are in demand, I will continue selling the material whenever a client comes to ask for it,” Waweru says. He makes most of the sales during holidays when children are home.
“Most of the time, these children come with their parents to buy particular series. The parents, usually may not be aware of the content, only heeding to their children demands. If they don’t find a particular series they want, they go to another place,” he explains. “Many parents today work long hours in a week and hardly find time to spend with their children at home.
Therefore, they hardly get to oversee their children’s activities including the programmes they watch on television,” says Edward Sirengo, a sociologist. Also, children nowadays are smart. Older children would still devise ways of getting to watch what they want such as buying movies or even downloading them. Sirengo advises parents to be keen. Peter Kithure, a parent admits.
“I work from Monday to Saturday to provide for my family. I rarely have time to supervise my 10-year-old daughter. She can always watch what she wants as long as it is not the Spanish telenovelas, which always have love themes,” he says.
The 33-year-old father who subscribes to pay TV, says whenever him and his wife are away, he uses the parental guidance restrictions available from the service provide to block particular stations. Sirengo says programmes that are well designed and take into consideration children’s developmental stages are more likely to have educational merit than shows not geared toward their healthy growth.
But even more important than the content and construction of a show, the sociologist advises, is the role a caregiver can play. “Television can get in the way of the attention the parent can give to the child. But by watching programmes with their children, parents can find ways to interact during the viewing and take advantage of learning opportunities,” he offers.
It turns out the educational value of television shoots up when parents watch with their children, so keep an eye or an ear on the TV when you can, add some context, describe what you see, and ask for their thoughts.
The more you can talk to them about it, the more they are going to get from that experience.” At the end of the day, more important than the specific dos and don’ts is this guiding principle: TV should be just one small part of your child’s day. That day should also be rich with physical exercise, reading time, unstructured play, and a lot of special time with you or other loved ones. As in all other matters, moderation makes a pretty good motto.