Watching television, movies, and playing with electronics is a huge part of American culture. When it comes to babies and young children though, it’s important to understand that the less time they spend with the screen, the better off they will be. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes too much time spent watching TV or playing with electronics can lead to several health problems including obesity, lack of exercise, eyestrain, becoming stagnant, and not spending enough time learning how to actively participate and play with adults and children. The AAP recommends that babies and young children under the age of 2 years old should not spend any time in front of a screen. They believe this can be detrimental to their development if instead of actively playing with age-appropriate toys and others, they are staring at a screen, zoned into all the images being portrayed. They also suggest that preschool-age children should only have 1-2 hours in front of a screen each day – this includes TV, movies, electronic games, or the computer or iPad.
How to Manage What Your Child Watches
- Don’t allow young children to watch the news or teenage or adult programs. These types of programs typically have at least one of the following: Violence, vulgar/rude talk and behavior, sexual content, and graphic images that can leave a child feeling disturbed and suffering from aggression, nightmares, fears, and/or behavior issues with other children and adults.
- Watch the television shows or movies before your child does to make sure it is age-appropriate. We recommend high-definition and quality educational/informative programs that will teach your child while being entertaining.
- Pre-record the shows so that you can fast forward past commercials that encourage unhealthy processed foods and teach children to want more and more toys and material things.
- Engage in TV shows, movies, and electronic games with your children – Be actively involved in asking thought-provoking questions and ideas.
- Help your child make a weekly schedule regarding what they want to do with their 1-2 hours of screen time per day. Maybe one day he or she wants 1 hour of computer time playing educational games and the other hour watching an educational program or cartoon. Allowing your child to actively participate in the decision-making process will help them respect the time allotted to screen time – while finding fun and useful ways to spend the rest of his/her day playing, reading, and exploring!
- If older children or adults want to watch their programs that are not suitable for young children, we recommend recording those shows and watching once the young children are not present.
- Don’t allow TV’s in children’s bedrooms, play rooms, or leave the TV on throughout the day. The less attention given to the TV or electronics, the less they’ll “crave” it.
Because so many children learn at a young age to become “addicted” to the screen, it’s vital to teach them at a young age to find more productive and entertaining ways to utilize their time. Playing board games that are age-appropriate, having play dates, crafting, and playing outside are amazing ways for children to have fun while releasing healthy energy that allows them to move, think, and grow in amazingly beautiful ways!