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Television watching

Information

Watching television is an experience shared by the vast majority of children and adults. It is convenient, inexpensive, available, and attractive. Television can be enormously entertaining for children and can teach them some things, but too frequently it is used as a substitute for other activities.

Studies show that many children watch more television than the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends. The group recommends no TV for children under 2, fewer than 2 hours per day for older children.

Excessive television viewing may cause some of the following problems:

  • Television often substitutes for physical exercise, which is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and is crucial to physical development.
  • Watching television may take the place of social interaction with friends and family, depriving children of sharing ideas and feelings with others, and preventing parents from learning more about their kids.
  • Television may take the place of reading in a child's day, which may contribute to poor school performance and delay literacy.
  • Exposure to violence on television may upset children and may lead to more aggressive behavior.
  • Television viewing has been associated with higher rates of attention problems in children.

Below are some tips for establishing appropriate television viewing by your children:

  • Encourage alternative activities, especially physical activity.
  • Turn the television off during mealtimes, homework time, and other times of day during which social interaction and learning are going on.
  • Read to -- and with -- your children.
  • Set limits on television time, especially on school nights. Allow children to select the shows that they really want to watch. This will encourage them to put thought into their viewing habits.
  • By watching television with your kids, you may help them understand what they're seeing, resist commercial messages, and feel comfortable discussing issues with you.
  • Set a good example by limiting your own viewing.
  • Get more information about television and kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics website --www.aap.org -- is a good place to start.
  • One way to limit television viewing is to require children to earn "chore points" before they can watch television. This approach can teach children to embrace household responsibilities and to self-limit television viewing.

References

Committee on Public Education. Children, adolescents, and television. Pediatrics. 2001;107:423-426.

Thakkar RR, Garrison MM, and Christakis DA. A systematic review for the effects of television viewing by infants and preschoolers. Pediatrics. 2006;118(5):2025-2031.

Johnson JG, Cohen P, Kasen S, Brook JS. Extensive television viewing and the development of attention and learning difficulties during adolescence. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(5): 480-486.

Updated: 5/16/2012

Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


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