Busy parents have become master multitaskers. But as making dinner, cleaning the house and doing laundry are all underway, the TV is often on in the background, which could be a disservice to your kids, experts say.
Research from the University of Cincinnati finds that children are watching TV while their parents are trying to complete the many errands on their never ending to-do lists. And while parents may be pros at tuning out, they may not be considering the effects that TV can have on their children.
A study conducted by Indiana University found that TV viewing can alter children's self esteem. White girls and black boys and girls tend to feel worse about themselves after viewing various forms of electronic media. However, white boys are in luck, TV viewing actually increases their self confidence.
The study surveyed 400 black and white preadolescents in the Midwest over one year. Professors Nicole Martins and Kristen Harrison focused on the correlation between total time spent watching TV and self esteem, rather than the impact of certain types of programming. They found watching more TV negatively affected self esteem for all children, except white males.
"Regardless of what show you're watching, if you're a white male, things in life are pretty good for you," Martins said in a release. "You tend to be in positions of power, you have prestigious occupations, high education, glamorous houses, a beautiful wife, with very little portrayals of how hard you worked to get there."
But other groups of children were subject to endless stereotypes. According to the study, female children are hard-pressed to find a diversity of roles for women on television. Black boys are no better off. Their TV brothers are often portrayed as criminals or lacking intelligence.
Black children in the study on average watched 10 more hours of TV per week than their white counterparts.
But don't banish the TV just yet. Parents can help counter these negative effects by choosing programming that reflects positive values and refrains from promoting stereotypes, said Sierra Filucci, TV and DVD editor at Common Sense Media.
"The images that our kids see through media and the news and images they see in video games informs their sense of what's normal," she said. "I think it's important that we have our kids be savvy media critics and consumers and that we insert our own comments about media as often as we possibly can."
Filucci encourages parents to watch TV with their children in order to start a dialogue and to help children interpret the images and messages they see on the small screen. She says parents should choose programs that promote diversity, such as "Handy Manny," "Doc McStuffins" and "A.N.T. Farm." She also suggests adhering to the Academy of Pediatrics reccomendation of no screen time for children under 2 years old and to monitor the amount of TV older children watch per day.
"It's about balance, where kids are playing in the real world, doing sports, interacting with their parents and the community," Filucci said. "Parents are the best resource for kids and they're the ones that can have the biggest effect on kids self esteem."
As an alternative to TV, Martha Cornog, book reviewer for the School Library Journal, suggest these graphic novels with African-American characters. A few of our picks are below. For the full list click here.
Billions of Bats: A Buzz Beaker Brainstorm by Scott Nickel
Buzz Beaker is a kid inventor who loves science, but sometimes his gadgets backfire. He also gets to save the day when others get into science-related trouble. This time, his girl-genius classmate Sarah wants to demonstrate her new cosmic copy machine to the school, but instead of one copy of a friend's pet bat, she gets a ton of them.
Invasion of the Gym Class Zombies by Scott Nickel
Trevor's new teacher has turned the gym class into zombielike, radio-controlled jocks. It's up to him to figure out how to get them back to normal.
Luke on the Loose by Harry Bliss
Little Luke's enjoying a day in the park with dad, but when he gets into boring daddy talk with adults, Luke tears off chasing pigeons, leaving a frantic father far behind. Galloping merrily through traffic, pedestrians, and then across the Brooklyn Bridge, he finally joins his prey on a rooftop, where he falls asleep and is rescued by the fire department.
Monster and Me by Robert Marsh
Big, loveable Dwight is twelve-year-old Gabby's pet monster and he's tapped to play Scrooge in her class's annual Christmas play. Problem is, Dwight speaks only monster-talk, not English.
The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby by George Beard and Harold Hutchins
This spin-off of the popular Captain Underpants series introduces a newborn superhero, inadvertently powerized upon falling into a container of "super power juice" stolen from Captain Underpants by the evil Deputy Dangerous.
The Boy Who Burped Too Much by Scott Nickel
Bobby burps loudly just about everywhere, which upsets other people more than it bothers him. But he has to control his burping if he wants to do well in the upcoming spelling bee.
WordGirl: Coalition of Malice by Chris Karwowski
Fifth-grader Becky Botsforth has a secret identity: WordGirl, with superhero strength and a huge vocabulary. Landing on Earth with her monkey sidekick when their spaceship crash-landed, she fights evil villains while introducing new words.
In Search of the Fog Zombie: A Mystery About Matter by Lynda Beauregard
There's a rumor at Camp Dakota about the fog zombie: when the thick fog wafts from the lake, people hear noises like footsteps and moaning. There's a scientific explanation, too, which five of the campers figure out when a hip counselor drops clues they can solve.
Living on Spongecake: The Curtis Chronicles by Ray Billingsley
Wilkins family life is never boring, thanks to the shenanigans of eleven-year-old Curtis and his younger brother Barry. While the good-hearted Curtis softens to the charms of potential girlfriend Michelle, Barry remains oblivious to the romantic intentions of cute little Chutney. An ongoing plotline features a town block of minority-owned small businesses that is to be demolished to make way for a supermall, and the townspeople's efforts to stop the bulldozers.
Mama's Boyz: The Big Picture; What You Need To Succeed! by Jerry Craft
Lighthearted vignettes with a serious message convey how mundane, day-to-day living habits can affect one's future. Slacker teen Yusuf Porter blows off his mama's advice but is then visited in his dreams, as in A Christmas Carol, by four phantoms that are versions of his future self. They counsel him on matters of health, appearance, family, self-esteem, education, and respect for others.
Muhammad Ali: The King of the Ring by Lewis Helfand
In its back matter, the Ali includes information on how the graphic novel was made plus stories about other prizefighters.
The Prison-Ship Adventure of James Forten, Revolutionary War Captive by Marty Rhodes Figley
James Forten was a historical figure, an African American born free in Philadelphia in 1766. He enlisted as a teen in the Revolutionary War and was captured by the British. As a prisoner of war he also faced the possibility being sold as a slave.
The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis
Ultra-nerd Julian Calendar hopes he can hide his supersmarts so he can fit in at junior high, but then he meets Ben and Greta, two closet brainiacs like himself. The trio forms a secret club with a high-tech hideaway to design goofy and inventive gadgets, all rendered in wildly detailed art. An evil scientist grabs their inventions to pull off a midnight heist. Can they foil his plot?
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis
In this version of the Spider-Man universe, Peter Parker is killed suddenly and Miles Morales, an African American/Latino middle-schooler, takes over the web-slinging.