Infants, toddlers and children under the age of eight spend about two hours per day looking at a screen – most commonly a television screen according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Kids between the ages of 8 and 18 spend even more time in front of a computer or television screen – about four hours per day. While television can be beneficial for children of all ages, what they watch and how often you children watch television is very important. As a parent, it’s your job to monitor your child’s viewing habits and make sure they’re watching the right things for an appropriate amount of time.
Kids Under Two
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under two shouldn’t watch TV at all. That’s because the first two years of a child’s life are incredibly important for brain development, and television can get in the way of interaction with other children, social development and physical development.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that if children over the age of two are going to watch TV, they should be limited to no more than one or two hours per day. That’s a big reduction from the average of four hours for most American children.
Pick Age Appropriate Shows
If your child is going to spend time in front of the television, it’s important that you find age appropriate shows for them to watch. Most television programs have an age rating that can commonly be seen at the beginning of the show. Looking online or in something as simple as the TV guide to find quality, age-appropriate children’s program can also help. DVD’s can also be used if you can’t find age appropriate television shows your child enjoys watching in your area or when your child wants to watch TV.
Avoid Inappropriate Shows
Keeping your children away from inappropriate television shows is as important as finding the right ones. Many television shows are made for adults, and may contain adult situations that aren’t appropriate for a 10 year old. Children that watch shows that depict violence may be more likely to develop aggressive behavior or fear of situations they won’t be exposed to. Children that are exposed to shows that depict adult behavior like drinking and smoking may be more likely to believe that is what all adults do, setting a potentially bad example for them later in life.
Watching too Much TV Limits Physical Exercise Time
According to the Centers for Disease Control, children should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Children that play organized sports at school or take part in physical classes will likely meet that requirement, but not all children do those things. If your child comes home from school and sits down in front of the TV during the waning daylight areas, you need to encourage your child to go outside and play. The activity doesn’t really matter, as long as your child is getting physical exercise.
Consider signing your child up for a sport that they’ve show an interest in. Some kids prefer physical activities like karate or ballet more than organized sports like football. Anything that gets them up and moving instead of parked in front of the TV all afternoon is fine.
Many kids in cold weather climates spend the winter months in front of the TV because it’s too cold to play outside. That’s when as a parent you need to find them a physical activity they can do indoors that they enjoy like gymnastics, dancing or even swimming classes at a local YMCA or gym.
What your kids watch is important, but making sure they watch television in a safe manner is also essential. One of your parents probably told you not to sit so close to the TV when you were a kid. In their day, that was appropriate because of radiation. Today, it doesn’t really matter, though it could mean that your child needs glasses. Get them an eye exam if they can’t see the TV from the sofa or a chair where you would sit to watch TV.
It’s also very important that you make sure your TV is properly mounted to the wall so it won’t hurt your child if they’re watching TV on the floor. While cabinets might seem like they would work to protect your child, the television can actually fall out of a cabinet in an earthquake or accident despite the cabinet itself being properly secured to the wall. When it comes to TV safety, a quality wall-mount is necessary to protect your child.
Television and Your Child
Television can be an educational tool for your child, but ultimately you need to monitor their use for a number of reasons as you can see. So make the effort to keep your child safe and healthy.
Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer and mother of three little ones in the Los Angeles area. Her articles range on topic from health and well being, to tech, to travel.
Photo Credit: http://eartheasy.com/blog/2011/10/why-tv-for-children-under-two-is-a-bad-idea/