The amount of hours children spend watching television is growing at an alarming rate. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that children under age 6 watch an average of about 2 hours of television a day, while children and teens ages 8 to 18 watch nearly 4 hours of television a day. Now more than ever, parents should take extra steps to monitor the amount of television their children consume.
The Dangers of Watching Too Much Television
Too much television can present several risks for your child. Staying indoors for several hours can limit your child’s mobility and physical activity. In addition, children are more susceptible to developing poor eating habits. Children may begin craving certain foods that are promoted through advertisements. Too much idle time on your child’s hands can also lead to boredom snacking.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highly discourages parents from allowing children 2 years old or younger from watching TV. Even those older than 2 years old should be limited to one or two hours a day at most.
From infanthood to 2 years of age, your child’s brain is developing quickly. In a statement released in October 2013, the AAP stated that watching television has no educational benefit whatsoever for children under age 2. The best educational tool for them is to interact with people.
Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple University, stated that research on language development indicates “the more language that comes in — from real people — the more language the child understands and produces later on.” Incessant television watching can negatively impact a child’s language development by limiting interactive and creative playtime with other people.
Some additional risks of excessive television watching in older children include attention problems, difficulty in academics, obesity, and even sleeping and eating disorders.
Put Your Child on a Media Diet
Though the AAP does clarify that there are some benefits to television and media usage, limits should be implemented to ensure your child has a healthy growth both mentally and physically.
The AAP released a policy statement encouraging parents to promote a healthy ‘media diet’. A healthy media diet consists of monitoring a child’s media usage as well as the type of media they are exposed to. In addition to television watching, your child’s media diet should include restrictions on video game consoles, computers, tablets, and cell phones.
You can implement your child’s media diet by following these steps.
- Begin by establishing screen-free zones at home. This means no televisions, computers, video games or access to cell phones and tablets in your children’s bedroom.
- Turn off the TV during dinner.
- Limit usage for children older than age 2 and teens to no more than one or two hours a day. Even then, the media usage should be educational content.
- Set aside specific times each day for your children to participate in outdoor play, reading, and recreational hobbies.
If you are worried your child is displaying some of the risks associated with watching too much television, schedule an appointment with your Oviedo pediatrician by calling 407-335-4760 or visit www.familyfirstpeds.com to book an appointment online.