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Can our children learn anything on TV?

By Pheona Nakishero

It’s not news that children spend a good chunk of their time watching television. Several parents have admitted that it is common practice to put their children in front of the television to have some quiet at home. For most of that time, many children are watching without adult supervision.

According to a report by UNICEF on Children Youth and Media Around the World, school-going children in the early 2000s spent 1.5 - 4 hours on television daily. The numbers and options have only grown in the last 20 years especially for children living in urban areas. A BBC article in 2015 revealed that children spent an average of 6 hours and more in front of a screen, sometimes watching television and surfing the internet on a phone or tablet at the same time.

Is watching TV bad? Maybe not. However, if the majority of the children that spend several hours watching television hardly ever, pick up a book to read, then that is bad. It seems that the more hours a child spends watching television, the less likely they will stop to read a book. Television and the internet become their source of information and have a big influence on the way they think. Very often during their playtime, children will imitate what they learn on television.

We ought to ask ourselves what are the children watching? Is it beneficial or detrimental to their sponge-like minds? Are they reinforcing the knowledge and values they learn from their teachers and parents? Should parents just completely cut off the TV from the lives of their children?

While some parents have opted for the former and yielded some substantial results, there’s a silver lining for those who have TV as an integral part of their child’s life. With the introduction of enjuba Super Spellers, a television show whose 11 episodes aired on Uganda Broadcasting Corporation Television (UBC TV), we sailed into new territory. This show brings together children below 8 years to compete in a spelling game. Herein, both spellers and viewers alike are able to engage their minds and learn.

As we prepare for the second season of the show, we hope to inspire confidence and improve learning outcomes among the viewers of this family show across the country as they spell along.

As we watch 5 - year old children spelling on television, and other children hosting the show, we hope it will expand their possibilities, allow them to dream big and follow those dreams. Since TV watching is largely a passive activity that rarely engages someone’s mind, brain games like enjuba Super Spellers come in handy to make TV time beneficial.