An Australian study has revealed that children are better off watching their parents cook, or from looking out of a window at trees, than by merely watching television.
Dr Kylie Hesketh, of Deakin University, has been running a trial program in Melbourne with 550 first-time parents, looking at children's health including sedentary behaviour.
Federal health authorities recommend no TV for children under two years and no more than one hour a day for kids aged two to five, and that children over five should be limited to less than two hours of electronic media, including game consoles and computers.
Dr Hesketh said practical solutions were needed to engage children, and that instead of sitting them in front of television while they get the household chores done, parents should sit them in the kitchen to watch meals being prepared or in front of a window to watch the trees sway.
"They're just as interested by that sort of colour and movement as they are by the television," News.com.au quoted Dr Hesketh as saying.
Dr Hesketh was presenting preliminary findings from her study to the Australasian Society for Behavioural Health and Medicine annual scientific conference in Brisbane.
She said while no there was no research, which showed benefits from early childhood TV watching, there was evidence it was over-stimulating for a young child's developing brain.
"While you're watching television it's displacing other things like children playing, which has benefits not only for health but social benefits as well," she said.
"There's also issues about sitting and about television content as well," she added.
Dr Hesketh said there was a "quite a strong link" between watching television while eating and over-eating.
"We strongly encourage people to turn the television off when they're having a meal as being a really nice family time when it can be an opportunity to talk about what families did during the day," she said.
Dr Hesketh said about one in five children were overweight by the time they reached school age, and most of those would continue to bear excess weight.
She said preliminary results from her program showed parents tended to give their children less time in front of TV after learning about alternatives.
"Children don't need it," she stated. (ANI)