Do they have a TV in their room?
Are they watching some shows that aren't age appropriate and getting overly influenced by TV commercials?
Unfortunately, if you are like most families, the answer to all of those questions is a clear 'yes.'
An easy way to limit the amount of time that your kids watch TV and make sure that they are watching age appropriate quality programming is to simply take the TV out of their room. That way you don't have to worry that they might be watching 'Adult Swim' on the Cartoon Network or shows with adult themes on cable TV.
Keep in mind that having a TV in their room may also cause your kids to have trouble going to sleep, get poor grades, be less physically active, and will make it more likely that they spend a lot of time away from the rest of the family.
So even if you don't believe that watching TV will make your children more violent, overweight, or that they will be influenced by commercials that target kids, you now have plenty of other reasons to take your children's TV out of their room and follow the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation that kids watch no more than 2 hours of quality programming each day.
And keep in mind that playing a lot of video games or spending time on a computer are not good activities to take the place of the time your kids spend in front of the TV. All of those types of sedentary activities are included in the 2 hour screen limit from the AAP.
Taking Charge of the TVMany children enjoy TV, and they can learn from it. Keep in mind, though, that young children often imitate what they see, good or bad. It's up to you to decide how much TV and what kinds of shows your child should watch.
- Think about your child's age and choose the types of things that you want him to see, learn, and imitate, remembering that the AAP recommends that infants and toddlers under age 2 years not watch any TV at all.
- Turn the TV off during meals and when your kids aren't watching a specific show so that the TV isn't on in the background all of the time.
- Look for TV shows that:
- teach your child something,
- hold his interest,
- encourage him to listen and question,
- help him learn more words,
- make him feel good about himself, and
- introduce him to new ideas and things.
- "Sesame Street," "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," "Blue's Clues," "Between the Lions," "Reading Rainbow," "Barney & Friends," "Zoom," and "Zoboomafoo," are some shows that you may want to consider. Many other good children's programs are available on public television stations and on cable channels such as the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.
- Limit the time that you let your child watch TV. Too much television cuts into important activities in a child's life, such as reading, playing with friends, and talking with family members.
- Watch TV with your child when you can. Talk with him about what you see. Answer his questions. Try to point out the things in TV programs that are like your child's everyday life.
- When you can't watch TV with your child, spot check to see what he is watching. Ask questions after the show ends. See what excites him and what troubles him. Find out what he has learned and remembered.
- Go to the library and find books that explore the themes of the TV shows that your child watches. Or help your child to use his drawings or pictures cut from magazines to make a book based on a TV show.
It can also help if you set a good example by being active and limiting your own use of screen time.
AAP Policy Statement. Media Use by Children Younger Than 2 Years Pediatrics 2011 128: 1040-1045.
AAP Policy Statement. Children, Adolescents, and Television Pediatrics 2001 107: 423-426.
AAP Policy Statement. Children, Adolescents, Obesity, and the Media Pediatrics 2011 128: 201-208.