SCREEN-TIME: Bella, 10, Zadkiel, 6, Ajalae, 3, with dad Raymond Karam of Goonellabah where the kids’ TV viewing is monitored by the parents.
SCREEN-TIME: Bella, 10, Zadkiel, 6, Ajalae, 3, with dad Raymond Karam of Goonellabah where the kids’ TV viewing is monitored by the parents. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

TV or no TV; that’s the question

IT'S THE challenge of our time for modern-age nuclear families - how to keep children busy at home without resorting to excessive television.

According to the latest ABS statistics, children spend more time watching TV, DVDs or videos than doing any other recreational activity. Of course, other screen-time activities such as gaming and internet use are also on the rise.

With thousands of studies linking all manner of negatives with excessive screen time - including learning impairment and obesity - managing exposure to TV and other screen-time activity is a big part of the modern parenting journey.

While a small proportion of parents have removed the entrancing device entirely - citing a positive influence on children's' ability to play creatively - many are simply learning how to use it with discretion.

Raymond and Anna Karam, parents of three children - Bella, 10, Zadkiel, 6, and Ajalae, 3 - know first-hand the challenges of television's tempting influence.

"If they've got an option, more often than not they'll pick the TV," Mr Karam said.

But rather than reject "the box" wholesale, they've developed a balanced approach, focusing as much on the content as the quantity consumed.

"We recognise that TV is a part of daily life, so we're not going to take it away from them... but we're aware that television has the ability to affect our moods and emotions - adults as well as children - so for us it's about supporting them to develop that awareness," Mrs Karam said.

"We ask them how they're feeling, and make sure they're okay."

As parents, one issue that's arisen for them is son Zadkiel getting affected by some of the fighting cartoons available for young children, such as the hugely popular Ben-Ten and Monsuno.

"Quite often in the beginning he was actually turning into the Ben-Ten monsters and attacking his sisters," Mrs Karam said.

"We're showing him that watching it is okay, but not letting it take him over."

The parents have also noticed that television with ads can have a "scattering" effect on the children's mood.

"As soon as the ads come up, they sit forward in their seat - the kids just hook into it to check out all the new things - and those ads are clearly targeted at the kids," Mr Karam said.



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