Most children begin watching TV at a very early age. There are some very informative and early learning programs geared towards infants right up through school age children. However, the question is how much and what kinds of TV viewing is acceptable for my child. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids under 2 years old not watch any TV and that those older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming.

Many parents will say, “But the program my child is watching is educational and he is learning his letters and numbers.” Let’s look at some reasons why limiting TV watching is beneficial for your child:

We know that in the first 3 years of a child’s life their brain develops faster than at any of time in their life. Part of the healthy development of the brain is making pathways for your child to grow and development in the basic learning domains, which include language, physical, social/emotional, and cognitive development. For the healthy development in these domains a child from infancy needs to have the interaction and attention of the people around them. They also need the opportunity to explore their environment through physical activity, challenging themselves to learn new skills such as crawling, climbing, playing and developing coordination. A young child that is sitting in front of a computer or TV screen for long periods of time is not engaging in these activities that are necessary for healthy brain development.

A major problem, today, for children is obesity. Children’s overweight issues have been directly related to the hours spent in front of a computer or TV. Children need to spend time each day engaging in physical activity to grow healthy and strong.

Some children’s experts believe that children should not watch TV at all, others acknowledge that there are benefits to watching educational programs. Children today have the opportunity to learn about the world around them. It is important that whatever time limits you set on TV viewing, you teach your children that while TV is fun, it does not replace other equally important activities.

Children have very vivid imaginations. Some TV programs may have scenes that are particularly scary to children. They may not be able to process what they are seeing and have a hard time figuring out what is real and what is imaginary. Therefore, it is important that you watch the TV program with your young child and be available to explain anything that you see may be troubling them.

When children spend many hours watching TV they are bombarded with commercials for toys, food, and clothes. Many ads today are formatted to look like they are part of the program the child is watching. Children are given big expectations of what they will be able to do with the toy that is being promoted. Limiting the time spent on TV will limit the time your child is exposed to the commercial side of TV viewing.

Here are some recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics on ways you can reduce TV and video game playing in your home.

1. Set a good example- Make sure you schedule family time or one-on-one time you spend with your child. Limit your TV time to when child is asleep.

2. Watch TV with your child and talk about what you are viewing.

3. Know and be familiar with the ratings on children’s video games.

4. Avoid watching violence of any kind and limit purchasing toys that encourage violence.

5. The TV or computer should be in a room where other people are present. Do not put the TV or computer on your child’s bedroom.

6. Meal times should be a time for a family to socialize and connect. Do not allow your child to get in the habit of eating in front of the TV.

7. Investigate the parental control options your TV service has available.

8. In your family living area make sure you have plenty of activities, games, books, etc to encourage the children to use when it is not TV viewing time.


American Academy of Pediatrics

Sutter Health Palo Medical Foundation