TV and Your Child

Nov 24, 2009
Nowadays, children spend more time watching TV than just a couple of years ago. Scientists are concerned that the amount of TV time has increased and it may negatively influence children's health.

The recent study analyzed screen time children spend in home-based and center-based child care settings. Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Research Institute and professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine and the leading researcher of the study revealed that daycare centers double time spent at watching TV for preschool children.

Previous studies showed that preschool children spent 2 to 3 hours of TV watching per day at home. However, today most preschool children also spend most of the time in child care centers. The study examined the TV use in 16 child care programs, including home-based and center-based programs. The scientists analyzed the amount of time used on TV, video or DVD viewing for infants, toddlers and pre-school children.

The findings showed that most children from home-based child care centers watched TV for 2.4 hours per day on average, which is twice as much as it was previously thought.

Scientists warn that TV is linked to many problems in preschool children, including obesity, aggression, attention problems, speech delays and others. Many parents want their child to grow in an environment that gives the best opportunities for child's development. This includes cognitive stimulation, adequate physical activity and social interaction. In this regard, television is bad choice for younger children. Many scientists believe that excessive TV viewing in childhood can become harmful for the next generation of adults.

The American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Public Education does not recommend using TV for children under two years, substituting television with interactive play. Other recommendations on TV watching for children include:
  • Try to avoid using TV for babies and toddlers under two years. Include more activities to encourage language and brain development, like singing, talking, reading, playing and listening to the music.

  • If your child is over age two, limit the amount of TV time to less than two hours per day. Keep in mind that TV time at daycare centers also counts.   

  • If your child is watching TV, make sure that the program is appropriate for your child's age. For example, check if cartoon or other program does not contain violence.

  • Do not turn on TV during meal time. Make sure all family members stay off TV while eating.

  • Avoid using television to reward your child.

  • Avoid using TV as a background. Make sure the TV is off, when your child stopped watching the program. Keep the TV turned off when you and your child are involved in other activities.

  • Try to get involved in TV viewing with your child. Ask discuss with your child about what you see on TV.