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Posts Tagged ‘Children and TV’

Screen Time Guidelines for Summer Break

Summer is here, which means children have more time to watch TV and play video games. To limit how much screen time your child has, you can institute a reward system.


  1. Select readily available tokens that your child cannot not easily access, such as stickers or playing cards.
  2. Think of some helpful tasks that your child can do around the house. Tell her that she can earn a reward for each task she completes without being told to do it. Examples include cleaning up after herself, bringing in the mail, feeding the pets and setting the table. Explain the concept of exchanging the token for a prize or privilege. This system will also help your child learn and understand the concept of spending money to purchase a product.
  3. Explain to your child that each time she wants screen time, she must hand in one of her tokens. Set a time limit for each token that is suitable for the age of your child. For example, one token could equal ten minutes of screen time. You may want to set a limit for the number of tokens that your child can use each day. Write down these rules and explain them well to stop any arguments before they start.
  4. Let your child know that if she has no tokens, she will have to do more chores to earn screen time.

Your little ones will be so excited to earn their tokens that they will not realize how many helpful tasks they are completing.

Media Use by Young Children

Remember when the American Academy of Pediatrics issued its recommendation five years ago that children two and under should not watch any television, and that children over two should limit exposure to two hours per day? Many parents seemed as reassured by this advice as they were confused. How could such an esteemed organization give advice that was “so out of touch with real American family life,” as one mother commented to the evening news? In those five years, children’s media appetites have hardly slackened. In fact, ‘screen time’ has eclipsed ‘TV watching’ as the name for such activities, given the plethora of devices on which real or animated moving and talking figures can now inform, distract, stimulate and baby-sit our young. So what is a parent to do?

An enlightening new study by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and Sesame Workshop,, “Always Connected: Young Children’s Media Use is On the Rise (March 2011),” tells us what parents are actually doing. It seems like many parents don’t know about the guidelines anymore, given that the majority of parents ignore them.   They may feel a need to ‘plug the kids into something besides me [i.e. the parent],’ or they turn a deaf ear because they feel that media exposure stimulates intellectual growth and development or they feel that ‘it’s something the world will expect my kid to be able to use, so the earlier the better.’ The report goes on:

  • For the time being, television remains the favorite medium.  90% of the average families sampled with children over five had kids who were regular, even enthusiastic, viewers. They watched an average of three hours per day.
  • Media use by young children ranges across a variety of platforms. 80% of sampled kids five and under are on the internet at least once a week and slightly less than half of all six-years-olds regularly play video games.
  • Media multitasking is growing quickly, with over a third of two- to eleven-year-olds using the television and the internet simultaneously (sound familiar?).
  • These usage patterns are likely to change, given that four of the top five electronic devices owned by children are mobile platforms.

So, back to that question of what is a parent to do, given that the expert advice out there seems not to have kept pace? [Keep your eyes open for some fresh guidelines from NAEYC on this topic coming to its website this year – maybe they WILL have kept pace].

  • If you want your kids to play imaginatively (great pre-literacy foundation!), keep the playthings away from the screen. University of Massachusetts researchers found that toddler play erodes and disorganizes when TV is on.
  • Keep the media diet balanced.  Print materials, screen devices, video games and DVDs should be rotated and refreshed (if not occasionally ‘lost’). Think of nutrition’s representation of a healthy, balanced diet. The food pyramid evokes positive images of a ‘media pyramid.
  • The best way to use the positive impact of TV (yes, there is one and this is it) is to engage parent-child pairs in co-viewing programming that stimulates learning and delight with the use of humor and playfulness (not silliness), novel topics and perspectives. This prevents the use of TV as a baby-sitter, but that’s the point. There is no stand-in for you, or the delight that you take, in your child’s growth and health.

The Digital Age and its Effect

The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to avoid television and other electronic media for children two years of age and under; yet two thirds of infants and toddlers watch a ‘screen’ for an average of two hours per day.

Older children have a similar average; however children ages eight to eighteen have an average of four hours per day. This amount of time spent in front of a computer, television, video game or the like can interfere with school work, physical activity, curious exploration, social interaction and playing. Many children also get in the (bad) habit of eating snacks while watching TV or playing computer games which can turn into a habit of eating when not hungry and contribute to childhood obesity.

Extended exposure to television poses serious risks.

  • Children who watch violent shows or play violent (video) games may become desensitized to violence at a higher rate.
  • These violent (video) games re-enforce stereotypical gender roles which are often demeaning to women.
  • Children who view what is considered “risky behavior” such as smoking, drinking, doing drugs, selling drugs or having sex are at a greater risk.
  • It has been suggested that the more television a child watches, the higher their risk of developing an attention deficit disorder. For every hour a day a child watches a screen, their chances go up 10%. (If a child watches four hours of television every day, they are 40% more likely to develop an attention deficit disorder.)
  • Children are bombarded with commercials. They are conditioned to think they need the advertised products to make them happier.
    • If your three-year-old watches television every day and regularly sees a happy child playing with a toy, she will begin to believe that she will only be happy when she has that toy.
    • Commercials may encourage unhealthy eating habits which can lead to an unhealthy eating habit called “snacking habit.” This snacking is generally a component of a sedentary, unhealthy lifestyle.

Watching TV, however, may provide benefits – Sesame Street has long been credited with helping youngsters learn the alphabet and its’ shows also depict racial and social diversity.

TV Time

Are you surprised that the American Academy of Pediatrics says no television before age two?  This standard alerts parents of infants, toddlers and preschoolers that their children are strongly affected by the talking tube and that they need to consider the way their children are exposed to its powerful influences.

  • If you chose to allow your children to view television, consider limiting the amount of “watching time” in their first three years to 30-90 minutes per day. This is more than enough for their young brains and eyes.  Children prefer, and benefit from, interacting with people far more.
  • The programming you chose should be specifically directed at the age of your child. Most good parenting magazines regularly publish guidelines that tend to be more objective and reliable than an advertiser’s suggestions.
  • Commercial-free is far better for eyes, ears, and minds.  Fewer interruptions and a generally higher level of intellectual and emotional content are the benefits.
  • A child’s room does not need a television. Television may inhibit a child’s desire to read and play imaginatively for years.
  • When your children watch television, watch with them.  They may need your help to decipher the barrage of messages, and only you know when they have had enough.  Occasional babysitting by means of television so you can get something done is understandable, but may be a waste of your child’s time and mind.

These guidelines should be discussed regularly by all adults in your household. The evening news may matter to the grown-ups, but it is frequently incomprehensible and somewhat frightening to your little ones. Media-literate parents are great blessings to their children.