You’ve made your own New Years resolutions, but you might want to set some for your children as well. The television is an enticing entertainment option for young ones, but too much television time has the potential to cause issues in several areas. And know that you’re not alone in your struggle of figuring out the balance between television time and peeling your kids away from the TV. The American Academy of Pediatrics found that the average child spends a total of seven hours per day with entertainment mediasuch as televisions, computers, and video game consoles. Their recommended entertainment media usage is two hours per day for children older than 2, and none at all for 2 and under.
Your children are influenced by the world around them in many ways. If the television forms the bulk of their playtime, even more so than the time you spend with them, then it’s going to be a significant factor in their development. Parental controls on televisions and video game consoles allow you to limit the rating of shows that children watch, but even seemingly innocent programs may show risky behavior in a thrilling or positive light. You want to reinforce positive social shows, instead of those that glamorize violence, bullying, drugs, stealing, smoking, and other detrimental behaviors. Allowing your child to watch only shows that focus on learning such as Sesame Street, Cyberchase, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, is ideal.
The University of Michigan compared the results of studies seeking to link violence in television with adverse behavior in children. The majority of studies they examined answered that there is a link between television violence and behavioral issues, such as antisocial behavior and desensitization, in children. These behaviors manifest as bullying or aggression. Spending time interacting family, friends, and classmates helps to bring positive social influences to the table. Even playing online games adds an element of socialization that the television can’t touch, if your child doesn’t have the opportunity for a great deal of in-person play time.
It’s not hard to see how failing to limit your child’s TV time can lead to childhood obesity. If they’re choosing the television over physical exercise every time, it’s easy for even a moderately unhealthy diet to add on weight. Boston’s Children’s Hospital published the results of its research study, which found that television watching had the biggest negative effect on those children they studied. The combination of a sedentary activity with persistent advertising for junk food during the shows is considered to be a major factor in why television watching is more harmful to a child than using a computer or a smartphone. Cut down on your children’s television watching time, and you’ll also open up more hours to spend together as a family. Use the time productively by going to a zoo, park, or another fun outdoor activity to get everyone off the couch and physically active.
Pediatrics journal published research that found a correlation between watching TV or using other entertainment media and sleep issues. In particular, 38 percent of the studied children had delayed sleep-onset latency, according to The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Creating a daily routine right before bed that doesn’t involve watching TV will not only help your little one fall asleep faster, but sleep better too. Instead, read a bedtime story, play a board game, or opt for a warm bath before tucking your child into bed.
How to Limit Television Time
These days, many devices such as digital cable boxes and smart TVs have parent controls built directly into the hardware. If you run a computer to a television monitor for streaming media entertainment, look into parental control software options to easily limit your child’s TV time. Talk with your kids about how much television is appropriate, and try to get them to follow their limits without hitting the parental control barrier.
Written by Brett Masey, who grew up as a kid of missionary parents and now works for a global food relief program. The father of three lives in Phoenix.