How Much Is Too Much?

From the days of black-and-white programming and only one TV per household, to the modern world where the digital age is typically evident in every room, television has become a dominant part of our daily lives. And, for many, watching TV has become a common way to keep children occupied. According to findings from the Nielsen Company, children between the ages of 2 and 5 years old across the country are spending more time than they should in front of a TV screen – an average of 32 hours a week.

Spending too much time in front of the TV can be harmful to a child’s health, as well. A new study out this month by the Journal of Pediatrics reveals that the more children watch television, the less sleep they’re receiving, affecting their overall mental and physical development.

Lauren Llewellyn says moderation works best when it comes to television time with her 2-and-a-half-year-old son, Brendan.

“In our house, we allow him to watch 30 minutes of TV in the morning, so we can get ready as a family to go off to work and preschool,” said the Los Angeles resident. “My husband and I both feel that school nights are about bath, books and bed and on weekends we lighten up a bit.”
Like the Llewellyn family, it’s important that families set television viewing limits with young children, and also make it an interactive and learning experience.

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use by children younger than age 2 and recommends limiting older children’s screen time to no more than one or two hours a day.

Recommendations from the Mayo Clinic encourage parents and caregivers to take active steps and help limit and enforce realistic amounts of tube time with children by doing the following:

  • Eliminate background TV
  • Keep TVs and computers out of the bedroom
  • Do not eat in front of the TV
  • Limit your own TV time
  • Seek quality videos or programs
  • Watch TV with your child
  • Encourage active screen time

Other ideas can include turning off the television completely. Organizations such as Commercial-Free Childhood are promoting “Screen Free” week from May 5-11, 2014. This campaign is promoting the importance of spending seven days doing other things with your children instead of watching TV, such as reading, exploring nature, and playing with family and friends.

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