Do you ever wonder if your child watches too much TV? Do you monitor your child’s screen time?
The American Academy of Pediatrics has firm guidelines on how much TV they think our children should be watching. They “strongly discourage” any television for children two years old and younger. These kids’ brains are still developing, and they learn best through interactive play.
Older children, they advise, should watch no more than one to two hours per day of educational, non-violent TV that is supervised by an adult.
I wholeheartedly agree with their recommendations. This statistic simply astounds me: “By age 3, almost one third of children have a television in their bedroom.” Really?! Ugh!
But I am also a parent who knows that the “electronic babysitter” is very effective at giving us some down time. It’s not always easy to follow the AAP’s guidelines. Sometimes we don’t always track how much TV our kids watch. Other times, maybe we’re not as honest with ourselves as we should be.
In fact, when you calculate how much TV your child watches, include all types of electronic devices. All “screen time” should be kept to a minimum.
So I have a very simple solution to determine whether a child watches too much TV. Ask yourself, Does my child ask for TV time?
That’s all you need. If your child requests TV time (at all), it’s likely he watches too much. It has become a habit for him, and he’s familiar with it enough to know that he wants it. Also, if it’s a battle between you, then he watches too much. If he’s requesting it, and you have to tell him no, then he whines and complains about it, it’s too much.
No child should be that dependent on TV. I speak from experience when I recommend this. During the week, my boys typically don’t watch TV at all. Between school, sports, homework, piano and outside play, they have enough to keep themselves busy. And they are very content to play with their toys rather than watch. In fact, if they do watch, I am usually the one who asks them if they want to watch. (I’ll do so if I need to be on the phone or really focus on my work.)
But over the years, we certainly have had times when they have watched TV regularly and have asked for it. I have always used that as my cue that perhaps they are watching too much, too regularly.
So what do you do if you find that your child routinely asks for TV time? Cut it out altogether. Yes, eliminate it completely. Give yourselves about a week with no TV to remind yourselves that you can get along without it. Again, if this sounds like a daunting task, that’s all the more reason to eliminate TV.
Here are some ideas for eliminating TV from your routine:
- Take TV time out of your written schedule.
- Encourage independent play. Replace TV time with an extra session of room time.
- Pull out some toys that have been in storage.
- Hit up a garage sale for new toys (novelty is the key here).
- Get some new books from the library.
- Get some audio books from the library.
- Take any DVDs out of the car (if you have a DVD player in the car).
- Sit down with your child and encourage the kind of play you’d like to see more of. (Imaginative play is ideal for kids ages three or four.)
Whatever you do, don’t replace your TV with another electronic device. Eliminating TV while adding in computer or iPad time doesn’t cut it.
And don’t fall for the idea that TV is educational. The most “educational” TV is not as educational as you sitting down on the floor playing or reading a book. And by all means, if your child has a TV in their room, take it out!
While eliminating TV is simply good for their brains, it’s also good for their bodies. Eliminating or reducing TV time can improve the child’s diet, decrease the risk of obesity, reduce the exposure to violent content (which does affect behavior) and improve sleep quantity and quality. Reducing TV is healthy!
The AAP suggests, “In today’s ‘achievement culture,’ the best thing you can do for your young child is to give her a chance to have unstructured play—both with you and independently. Children need this in order to figure out how the world works.”
Still not convinced? Read this from the AAP.