Exactly How Much Screen Time is Good for Children?

TV viewing among kids is at an eight-year high. On average, children ages 2-5 spend 32 hours a week in front of a TV—watching television, DVDs, DVR and videos, and using a game console. Kids ages 6-11 spend about 28 hours a week watching TV.

It may be tempting to put your infant or toddler in front of the television, especially to watch shows created just for children under age two.

But the American Academy of Pediatrics says, “Don’t do it!”

Early years are crucial in child development

earth-day-recycled-projectThe Academy is concerned about the impact of television programming intended for children younger than age two and how it could affect your child’s development. Pediatricians strongly oppose targeted programming, especially when it’s used to market toys, games, dolls, unhealthy food and other products to toddlers.

Any positive effect of television on infants and toddlers is still open to question, but the benefits of parent-child interactions are proven. Under age two, talking, singing, reading, listening to music or playing are far more important to a child’s development than any TV show.

Not all that long ago, the primary decision parents faced with allowing children a reasonable amount of screen time only involved watching television and video games. Now, the landscape has expanded dramatically to include cell phones (probably yours if you’re not careful), DVDs, DVR, videos, game consoles, iPads, and tablets.

Although it’s hard to believe, we know of children as young as three who have learned how to use cell phones simply by observing parents and asking questions.

Screen Time Recommendations for Children

Sign-Language-Crawlers-programIt’s important for parents to learn about how much screen time is good for children and the role they want TV and digital devices to play in their family. The impact of television on children’s behavior, sleep, beliefs, school grades, health, and weight is considerable.

According to a new policy statement released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in late 2013, and published in the journal Pediatrics, the following guidelines should be observed:

  • To maintain a healthy environment, children should be limited to less than two hours of entertainment-based screen time each day.
  • Additionally, they shouldn’t have TVs, or Internet access in their bedrooms.
  • Social human interaction is critical starting with very young babies. This interaction is vital for a baby’s healthy development. Using TV as a baby sitter is not the answer.

Having a family dinner together should not include watching TV. Excessive TV watching, game playing, or tablet use can take time away from healthy outdoor play activities with friends, participation in sports, music, art, reading, or other activities that require practice to enhance skills.

art-class-celebrating-DelaunayResearch has found that excess TV watching can contributes to sleep problems, obesity, poor grades, unhealthy food choices, obsessive behavior with devices and TV, violent solutions for problems, alcohol consumption and risky sex behavior for older children.

And, most importantly, fantasy play is extremely important for children where they create stories and adventures of their very own. Encourage your children to share their adventures with you. If they’re old enough, suggest that they write them down in a journal. If you happen to be a military family, suggest that the kids create a journal for their parent serving at the front lines.

Parent Resources

Research has found that excess TV watching can contributes to sleep problems, obesity, poor grades, unhealthy food choices, obsessive behavior with devices and TV, violent solutions for problems, alcohol consumption and risky sex behavior for older children. 

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