- TV and Kids: How Much is Too Much?
I have a confession to make: I’m probably not the best person in the world to be writing this post. Because, in the interest of full disclosure, I think TV and children don’t mix well. In fact, I think TV is waaaaaay overused as an easy babysitter. And also because I once tossed our TV out when my kids were growing up. Yep, tossed it right out the window. We lived without this contraption for about five years. And we all survived, thank you very much.
Do I feel guilty about it? Did my kids suffer for it? Do they have any negative lasting effects from it? Not at all. And again, to be totally honest with you, my own daughter is doing the exact same thing now that she has two little ones of her own.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally get it. TV — rather, good TV— does have its place. It can be educational. It can be motivational. And it can be insightful. But it can also be abused miserably.
Let’s take a look at what some experts found out about how T.V. can affect your child:
- Vocabulary – Researchers at the University of Washington conducted a study that discovered infants learned 6-8 fewer new words for every hour per day spent watching videos on TV compared to babies who never watched them.
- Bullying – A study at the University of Michigan concluded that childhood exposure to media violence predicts young adult aggressive behavior.
- Attention Problems – According to a study conducted by researchers at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, every hour preschoolers watch television each day increases their chances — by about 10% — of developing attention deficit problems later in life.
- Obesity –A Stanford University study found that “television viewing is a cause of increased body fatness.” This is the result not only of decreased physical activity, but also of increased snack consumption and the influence of commercials that advertise high-calorie foods.
- Violent Behavior – According to David Walsh, Ph.D., president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, “Hundreds of scientific studies conducted since the 1950s have shown a cause and effect between exposure to violence through the media and violent behavior.”
- Academic Performance – Dr. Frederick Zimmerman, the lead author of a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, found that the amount of time a toddler spends in front of the TV translates into lower reading and short-term memory scores at 6 and 7 years old.
On a more positive note, these negative effects can be cured by simply decreasing TV time to a minimum — or better yet, turning it off altogether — and engaging, instead, enriching family time together. Try making a schedule for limited TV viewing (and sticking to it), offering TV as a reward only (when chores or homework are completed), watching quality shows together and offering fun alternatives.
The guidelines for TV viewing according to The American Academy of Pediatrics is this:
- Kids under 2 years old should not watch any TV
- And those older than two should watch no more than 1-2 hours of quality programming per day.
My opinion? Less is definitely more. Just ask President and Michelle Obama, who revealed in an interview with People magazine that their daughters are allowed to watch limited TV only on weekends. Hey, if the president can do it, so can you!