Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Toddlers and Television

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The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only one to two hours of television per day for children over two and no TV for children under the age of two. Despite this recommendation, the average American child watches three to four hours of television per day (http://www.babycenter.com/). One study found that even at three months of age, 40% of children are already regularly watching TV (Zimmerman, Christakis, & Meltzoff, 2007). There are some important items to keep in mind when considering what is right for you and your child concerning television viewing.
  • If you choose as a parent to allow your child under the age of two to watch television, it is recommended that the child only watches 15-minute increments. By watching smaller increments the child can stay engaged and involved rather than just zoning out. Keep in mind that experts suspect that children under the age of two probably see the images on TV as being quite confusing.
  • When choosing shows to watch, pay attention to how often the screen changes. You might be amazed at how many images are being thrown at your child in just a few seconds. Try to find shows that have a slower pace so that your child has time to digest the information. Allowing the faster-paced shows may negatively affect your child's attention span.
  • Do not allow your child to have a TV in his/her bedroom and keep the TV off during meal times.
  • Do not allow cartoons that portray violence. Viewing violent programs can increase aggression in your child and can also desensitize your child to violence (Pantley, 2003).
  • Watching TV can become addictive. Parents have to step in to make sure that television viewing is controlled and not overused. Often a warning a couple minutes before a show is over helps the child turn the TV off after the program is done.
  • Experts recommend that parents watch the programs with their children so they can answer questions and ask their child questions to help guide them in their learning.
As parents, it is important that we help our children create healthy habits. We need to keep in mind that when children watch too much TV it can take away from better activities that promote health, imagination, and learning. However, when TV is watched in moderation, educational programs can help with academic skills, language skills, and reading skills. Just keep in mind that it cannot replace you working one-on-one with your child in these areas.

Here is another good site for you to read up on the issue:
http://www.pbs.org/parents/childrenandmedia/article-faq.html

What are your thoughts on children watching TV? Do you think it is ever okay to use the TV as a babysitter? How can you control television viewing with children under age two when you have older children?

I would love to hear your comments on this issue.

Pantley (2003). Should babies and toddlers watch television? Retrieved from: http://www.parentguide.com/parents/health/ShouldBabiesAndToddlersWatchTelevision.html.
Zimmerman, F., Christakis, D., & Meltzoff, A. (2007). Television and DVD/video viewing in children younger than 2 years. Retrieved from: http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/161/5/473.

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