It’s tough to know how much TV to let your kids watch, and each family has different rules. Are educational shows like Baby Einstein better than the entertainment-only variety or is all screen time about the same?
We don’t believe that TV is bad per se (heck, we’re on the tube ourselves), but for kids, spending too much time in front of the TV (or later, playing video/digital games) isn’t all that healthy. For one, while they’re watching, they aren’t engaged in healthy activities, like socializing, reading, exploring, creative play, and running around outside. Plus, kids tend to model behavior they see on TV that you don’t necessarily agree with. And that’s not even mentioning the violence, sex, and fast-food commercials (On average, kids see fifteen food commercials a day!) they’ll be exposed to. The average kid watches about three hours a day, but that number gets much higher as they get older. Not surprisingly, excessive TV watching is associated with childhood obesity. So follow these strategies for limiting their time in front of the TV, no matter how much they love the dude with the square pants.
• After they turn two, you should limit them to one to two hours a day of screen time (under two, they don’t need to be watching much at all, if any; as they get older, screen time includes time spent on computers and video games, as well), according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and researchers looking closely at baby brain development. And prescreen what they’re watching to make sure it’s a quality choice.
Shows that encourage active participation (like calling out answers or dancing along) rather than passive viewing are best. If you want them to emulate bratty behavior, then make sure they watch the average sitcom. Funny, yes. But monkey see, monkey do applies here.
• No TV in your youngster’s room. TVs in the bedroom are associated with a higher incidence of childhood obesity, sleep problems, and behavior problems. In general, eating in front of the TV in any room of the house should be kept to a minimum, because it leads to mindless snacking and lots of extra calories.
• Videos and DVDs may be a better choice for kids than TV, because you can vet the content beforehand.
• Limit the time you have the TV on in the background. Also, beware of the adult content on shows you may have on for yourself (soaps, news, The Dr. Oz Show, and so on), because children will absorb and repeat what they see.
While there are plenty of nonscreen options for entertaining your child in healthy ways (playgrounds, games), the number one alternative is reading. It’s one of the best ways to interact with your child in a peaceful, cuddling environment, plus it gives her the intellectual foundation for academic success and does wonders to improve the neural circuitry that’s being formed in these early, critical years.
A New York Times #1 best-selling author and host of The Dr. Oz Show, Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. is also professor and vice chairman of surgery at New York Presbyterian-Columbia University and the director of the Heart Institute. For more from Dr. Oz, check out You: Raising Your Child and You: Having a Baby, both co-authored with Michael F. Roizen, M.D.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.