Should Children Be Watching Television At Nursery Or With The Childminder?

Mum-of-one Emily thought she had found the perfect nursery to care for her one-year-old son when she returned to work.

It was close to where she lived, en route to her office, served nutritional homemade food and she could barely see the walls due to all the children's art work covering them.

But then, quite by chance, she discovered from another parent something that completely changed her mind. At the end of each day, all the children in the nursery – which caters from six weeks old to five years – are put in front of the television.

Emily wasn't happy about this. "If I'm paying £50 or so a day for my son to be cared for, I really don't think he should be plonked in front of the television," she says. She quickly withdrew her application and found somewhere else.


"I know some other parents may think I am neurotic, or a pushy mum because he is so young, but I don't think it is good for their development," she says.


Certainly some governments and academics around the world back her opinions. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, said in 2012 that television – either in the foreground or background – has potentially negative effects on children under two years of age.

In Australia, government advice is that children under two should not be exposed to television as it can delay development of their language skills and their ability to concentrate. They also recommend children aged two to five should watch no more than an hour a day.

In 2008, the French broadcast authority banned television channels there from marketing TV shows to children under three years old, as it was concerned about risks to their development.

It all sounds rather extreme.

My mum friends are full of stories of what their children have learnt from television and agree most shows for young children are educational in some way. So is Emily's reaction over the top?

Mum of two Aimee thinks so. She says she is happy for her daughter to watch a small amount of television at the private nursery she attends part-time. "She is there sometimes from 8am until 6pm. It's a long day to be continually stimulated with different activities," she says. "It's longer than I am at work!

"If they were just watching television all day, it would be different, but she is constantly coming home with art work she has made, singing songs I haven't taught her, telling me about things I know I've not taught her, so I know she is doing a wide-range of things and advancing."

Aimee feels strongly that a bit of television at the end of the day is fine. "My parents usually look after her a couple of days a week, as well as my elder daughter when she finishes school. I know she watches some television with them, so I don't see much difference," she says.


"At the end of the day, she isn't even of school age yet. She goes there so I can work. If I didn't have to work, she would be with me, and she would certainly watch television with me."


Leanne, a nanny to three children and a former nursery nurse worker, feels differently. She cares for the children five days a week from 8am until 6pm, during which time their parents have stipulated they must not watch television. It's an arrangement she is happy with.

She speaks of one nursery where she previously worked where the children would often watch television. "It was symptomatic of the fact they were not very good at controlling the children, or organising activities, and they would put it on to keep them quiet," she says.

Rebecca, a mum of two and a childminder to several primary school-aged children, also doesn't put the television on when she is looking after other people's children.

"One of my reasons is that as I am being paid to look after children I believe that I should be offering engaging activities as well as time to relax," she says.

"Furthermore, the national minimum standards of childcare regulations sets out our duties as child minders. I am required to apply the principles of the Foundation Phase, and its seven areas of learning as appropriate to the developmental stage and needs of each child.

"I don't personally feel that I would be meeting these standards if I regularly permitted the children to watch television. That said, children also participate in freely chosen, unstructured and self-directed play."

She says parents of the children she minds have mixed views on the issue. "A couple of parents have asked about my policy regarding the watching of television at my childcare setting. One parent was relaxed about it, the other said that they would prefer their children not to watch television," she says.

Mum of two Bethan is happy for her sons to watch television with their child minder. "The reason I chose a childminder was for it to be like a home from home, so I think it's fine that they watch some television with her. I don't think it's an awful lot.

"For example, my youngest son, who is 19 months old, has breakfast there and I know he watches a bit of CBeebies afterwards while the childminder clears away – very similar to what we'd do at home. Again, after school she lets him and my five-year-old son watch some once they have had their snack. And I'm sure on a rainy day they might well watch a bit."

She feels her child minder uses the television as an educational tool. "She is a big sports fan so they sometimes watch the cricket, the Olympics and some of the Commonwealth Games when they were on, but she will talk about it and explain what's going on, so they are learning through that.

"A few weeks ago my eldest son was telling me all about triathlons in the car on the way back having watched it with his childminder."

Bethan says some of her friends would be mortified if their children watched television in the day, but she is not so strict. "I think you've got to be realistic about it, television is a big part of our lives these days," she says.

Whatever your views on whether children should watch television, it's certainly worth asking your child care provider. As Emily says, "It had honestly never occurred to me that children in a private nursery would watch television, so I didn't think to ask when we were being shown round," she says.

"If we ever find ourselves looking for a new childcare provide in the future, it's certainly one of the first questions I'll be asking."

Are you happy if your child watches TV while in nursery or with the childminder or nanny?