Our children and TV: which shows and at what dose?

Scotches in front of the post on the return of At school they leave it only after a few cries and grinding of teeth. Permission, repression? Often we do not know what position to adopt.

Anne-Laure Gannac

The 12 tracks of the child psychiatrist Claude Allard

Claude Allard is the author of The Child in the century of images .

1 Why are children fascinated by television

The images offer children a moment of "derealization". With television, this phenomenon is reinforced. In the cinema, there is a beginning, an unfolding, an end. And going to see a film is accompanied by a ritual: dark room, giant screen, presence of other spectators ... The children are aware of living a moment outside them, limited in time and space. All these conditions are absent when they find themselves faced with the continuous flow of disparate images broadcast on TV. Taking distance becomes more difficult and the fascination is reinforced.

2 What effects do images have on them?

Before 3-4 years, they are especially fascinated by all that is of the order of action and movement in the image. They are caught up in the waking dream they are watching, which demands an effort of attention. But if they develop their visual sense, it is to the detriment of their other senses, their psychomotor abilities in particular. Between 4 and 7 years, it is the identification which prevails. Having still hard to distinguish reality and imaginary, they will identify with certain characters according to their fantasies. After 7 years, they can compare the proposed images and the reality. They have acquired the notions of time and space, which make them able to develop their critical thinking. They can choose their favorite programs and fictional characters and take breaks.

These abilities are fully acquired around 10-11 years old. At this age, a little jaded by the TV, they will turn away for the benefit of video games. The content of the images will become more important. In a game of identification more or less conscious, children will prefer characters who flatter their ego: hero to the all-powerful phallic for boys, stars fueling the desire for seduction for girls ... It is especially at this age that parents must question the choice of programs.

3 At what age can they watch the small screen alone?

The "baby-sitter television" is to be banned for the reasons mentioned above. From the age of 7, children can watch television alone. But, to be a parent, it is first to guide them in their choices and to help them to decipher the phenomena. Television must not escape this rule. Especially among people under 7-8, unable to impose a limit on themselves.

4 How to fix a "TV quota"?

Parents must, very early, impose strict rules. It's up to them - not the kids - to set a "TV quota". Determined for the week, for example, it can vary, but always on parental decision. When children are old enough to choose their programs, setting the quota with them is an effective way to help them become actors rather than passive spectators.

5 What to do to respect this quota?

It's impossible to be always behind them. But supervising them from an early age avoids having to play a strictly repressive role that encourages transgression. To speak very early of the television avoids that the prohibition is considered arbitrary.

6 Television in their room: dangerous or not?

Dangerous, because trivializing television is restricting their chances of finding other, more fulfilling occupations. TV should not be their only entertainment object.

7 They like "silly" shows, what do you do?

Parents have the right to prohibit programs. But, which is stupid for the adults, it is not necessarily for the children. Before banning a program, watching it with them encourages them to express what they like and explains what we do not like ... Forbidding by saying "it's a stupid program" is ineffective. To argue is to invite them to do the same and help them build their own judgment.

8 Television in the morning before school: to avoid?

If they got up early and took the time to look after them, why not allow them to watch for a few minutes? It's more of a problem with toddlers, who swallow their cereal while watching TV and find themselves directly in the classroom: parents have not given them the means to make the transition from family to school . The television then acts like a screen, preventing the children from realizing the parental absence that they will live during the day. It will be in the aftermath, that is to say in class, that they will become aware of this absence and may feel an emotional lack.

9 Advertising, a risk of "cretinization"?

From the age of 3-4, they recognize advertising jingles and logos. But it is only from 7-8 years old that they seize the persuasive intention. Hence the need to talk with them so that they are not "victims of advertising".

10 Information: educational or anxiety-provoking?

The television news is, in form and substance, an adult program. And it is not useless for children to have access to an adult speech. But dramatic images can generate anxiety. The ideal is to avoid this show to less than 7-8 years. For adults, an adult needs to explain it to them, and the format of the television news does not always allow this moment of explanation.

11 How to manage the scenes of love, or sex?

Pornographic film requires emotional and sexual maturity. Signage (forbidden to under 16s) is adapted. If the children transgress it, the violence of the images will be attenuated because they know themselves in the forbidden.

In a public film, if they ask questions or are embarrassed about a love scene, this is an opportunity to talk about sex. If the scene mixes sexuality and violence, it is essential to talk about it. When they hear their parents making love, they sometimes think they are fighting. Hence the risk of trauma when they discover these violent scenes. The key is then to tell them that making love is to please the other.

12 A brake on culture?

The small screen reinforces the sense of immediate pleasure and makes it more difficult to read, think, and build a proper thought. Moreover, the TV encroaches on playing time, essential time because it helps the development of psychomotor functions and creativity. Children need to express their imaginary representations in action, and television offers them to passively receive the imaginary constructions of others.

So, definitely harmful TV? "When the fiction submitted to the child does not prevent him from doing his" work child ", it can not be bad," said the British psychoanalyst Donald W. Winnicott . The essential thing is not so much what the child sees on the small screen as what he does with it. And it's up to the parents to help him use it for his good. And to teach him that television can hurt.


Sign of the times, we had trouble finding four young people who do not live with their noses stuck to the screen. Atypical childhood stories.

Enzo, 10 years old: "I'm looking at Mom's, not at Dad's"

"When I'm at my mother's house, I only look at the news, with her, so I know what's going on in the world, even if, sometimes, there are images that are shocking, half-naked women or children who suffer ... But at my father's - I go every Tuesday and every other weekend - he There is no TV, it does not bother me at all, because, apart from the news, the programs are stupid.There are only "stupid" things: reality TV, games ... C It's really not fun, I think, and then, in front of the TV, we do not do anything, we sit, we look, and there we go, it bothers me.

My friends look at her a lot. for example, he has TV just in front of his bed and it's always on, but we do not talk about it too much at school, TV, so I do not mind not look as much I think most kids watch so much TV because they do not know what else to do.I prefer to read, for example. Like my parents. I make music too. Otherwise, I love creative activities. For example, the Lego. I put them up, and then, with my father, we make them move and I film them with a small camera. We make photos too, and we assemble them to make beautiful montages. Then I play sports, with my father. Tonight, for example, we go water skiing! It's still better than watching "Loft Story" or I do not know what else!

Later, I will try not to have TV at all. The news, I'll read them in the newspaper. That way, I'll have time to continue doing lots of activities, lots of sports, creation. We never get bored when we do not have TV. "

Penelope, 10:" No TV on weekdays "

" At home, it is forbidden to watch TV on weekdays. So, on weekends, I look at her a lot. My parents do not like too much: "You better read! "My father often tells me. Sometimes I listen ... But after a few pages, I turn on the TV! I often look at her alone, or with my brothers. I know all the programs by heart. But cartoons and comedies, that's what I prefer. The rest, I do not look. Anyway, I have the right to look only for my age.

With my girlfriends, we often talk about what we saw. They know more movies than me because they have the right to watch TV on weekdays. Compared to others, my parents are very strict. Finally ... Sometimes I manage to negotiate with Mom. At first, she does not want to hear anything. I insist, and sometimes she ends up saying, "Okay, but not more than half an hour. "For thirty minutes, I choose all the programs I want to see. After, I turn off. I know we must not insist.

During holidays, it's like weekends: I have the right to watch as much as I want. So, I take full advantage of it, because I know that at the beginning, I will not be able anymore. "

Anatole, 6 years old:" I have a fake TV for DVDs "

" At home , there is a TV, a fake, because it is only used to read DVDs. But when I go to my grandmother's house, I watch real TV. I even have the right to light it often! I see a lot of cartoons that I love! I hate advertising. It makes a lot of noise and it hurts my ears.

I would really like to have a television. But I never asked mom and dad to buy one. I do not know why they do not want it at home. If one day they say yes, I'll be happy. I would like to watch the "Pokemon" and "Digimon". I know them because my friends talk about it at school. I do not tell my friends that I do not have TV ... I forget ... Sometimes, when I go to play at home, they have the right to watch it. Me, I never ask, it's them!But I'm happy.

If mom and dad do not want to buy a real TV, it does not matter. Because I like playing with my computer or my top. And because I have the right to watch my DVDs ... When it's raining only. Except that mom and dad, they watch movies at night when I'm in bed. When I grow up, I'll do the same! "

Alexis, 20:" I was raised without "

" My parents never had TV. My friends told me about a world I did not know. I regretted a little not being able to participate in their discussions, but nothing more. The TV did not fail me. I did not think about it. But I remember when I went to my grandmother's house, I was captivated by the small screen. Since I live alone, I have chosen to do without. I am in maths and I have a lot of work. I'm scared of being shipped on TV and becoming stupid. Two years ago, for a few months, I had a job at home. I tended to spend my free time or tired glued to it. I realized that I was going out and talking less. In fact, I find it healthier and more joyful to see friends, play football, go to the movies, see exhibitions, or just wander. I do not like being alone. When I was a kid, in my family, we talked a lot. I am quite proud of the relationships we have built. These reports are what my parents favored. And today, rather than waste my time watching TV, I prefer to spend it with others. "

(Interviewed by Anne Laure Gannac, Danièle Luc and Laurence Ravier)


Who looks television at home?

The figures revealed by the latest Médiamétrie / Médiamétrie survey ( 1 ) are formal: the youngest spend less time watching TV than their elders. on average, two hours and eight minutes a day, 11-14 years, two hours and twenty-three minutes, 15 years and over, three hours and twenty minutes, almost half an hour more than ten years ago.

According to this same survey, the differences by sex are very slight between 4 and 14 years old: two hours and sixteen minutes on average for boys, against two hours and ten minutes for girls But they increase with age: in the first eight months of 2003, women aged 15 and over watched three hours and thirty-seven minutes a day, compared with three hours and fifteen minutes for men of the same age.

1 - Survey revealed by the National Union of Television Advertising (SNPTV) and conducted by the Médiamat / Médiamétrie panel between July and August 2003.


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