How Much is too Much? How TV Affects Your Child’s Health

 Every parent knows how handy the TV is as a quick and easy in-house babysitter, but how much should you really be allowing your children to watch on a daily basis? According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), many children are averaging approximately 2 hours of screen time a day for years before they even enter school. While obviously the content of the programming is of concern, what is “plugging in” doing to kids at such an early age?


Important Facts You May Not Know:

1) Too much TV inhibits social growth.

Most parents know that the first few years of their child’s life are crucial for developing their brain and social functions. While good nutrition and sleep are extremely important, so is how a child interacts with the world around them. TV and other electronic media can inhibit them from these all-important interactions, and also slow down social learning processes.

2) Kids who watch too much TV tend to be overweight.

We all like to occasionally veg out in front of the television, but regular couch sessions can be detrimental to a child’s overall health. Children with screen time of 4 or more hours a day are not only losing valuable physical activity time, but are also learning habits that will follow them into adulthood.


3) Excessive TV can lead to shorter attention spans.

Though TV can be educational, it can also develop school problems down the road. Recent research has found that preschoolers who watched a lot of television had more trouble sitting still and listening during class, and generally lacked the focus and attention of those in the class who had limited television viewing.

What’s Appropriate for Your Child

Taking all of this into account, figuring out exactly how much TV to allow your child to watch can seem like a daunting task. However, the television can be an important tool in your child’s growth and education if used correctly. Developing a plan is crucial to get the very best out of it.

Know Your Limits

Parents will read all sorts of advice as to what the “appropriate” amount of TV time is. Try to understand your current TV usage by keeping a log of how often your little ones are watching television so you can get a better understanding of your family’s viewing habits. From there, try to limit screen time to only quality programming for 1-2 hours per day. Engage your children in other activities to show them that there’s life “away from the box.”

Choose Wisely

Kids may love cartoons, but is that really the best use of their TV time? From DVDs like Baby Einstein to downloadable programs, there are a variety of age-appropriate program choices that can not only entertain your child, but also give them a head-start on ABC’s, counting, colors and shapes. Try to follow up any lesson on the program with appropriate activities. This will show them to use TV more as an educator rather than entertainment.


Like adults, children have a tendency to “zone out” while watching TV. Keep your child engaged by watching the programs with them. Encourage them to clap their hands or follow along, and talk with them about what you see. This can not only provide some valuable parent-time, but also reinforces a different ideal about watching television.


Television doesn’t have to be the monster in the corner of the room. In fact, with planning and keeping an eye on what your children are watching, TV can be a helpful addition to your child’s growth.


With four kids, writer Melanie Fleury is guilty of using the TV as a distraction a little too much. She found that by choosing educational and developmentally appropriate shows like the Baby Einstein DVDs helped to make sure that the time spent in front of the TV was quality time.


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