When it comes to TV time, we have a rule: One show in the morning, two in the afternoon. This adds up to an hour and a half of TV each day, below the two hours recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Of course, “rule” might be overstating things. “Guideline” may be a more appropriate way to describe our approach to TV. Maybe I should say “guideline” with some flexibility when it comes to movies on the weekend and travel days.
And when they’re sick? Like both my kids were the last two weeks? They spent a lot of time watching television. There’s no better babysitter when mama has to work. All of which is to say I was very glad to read Abigail Green’s Babble story on The Truth About Kids and TV, which is, like co-sleeping, TV time and how bad it is is all about context.
As Green points out, the most severe limitations are reserved for kids under 2. No TV for them. It’s not good for early child development. Honestly, whether or not that will work for you will depend on a great many variables – your kids, your own TV habits (I can’t bear having the TV on as “background noise” so it never is), and your needs.
But, for very small children and older ones, the question of TV screen time (as distinguished from interactive media screen time) can be boiled down to this one posed by Green:
“Is the issue what they’re watching or how much?”
The answer she got from David S. Bickham, staff scientist for the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston is not definitive but not heartbreaking, either.
“There’s no clear-cut answer,” Bickham says. What is clear is the link between TV and obesity. And it’s not just because kids who watch TV are less physically active, though that is a factor. According to a new study by the AAP, children and teens spend an average of seven hours a day consuming electronic media for entertainment, compared to an average of three hours a day watching TV in 1999. But also to blame for the correlation between television and childhood obesity are all those enticing commercials for fattening foods slipped in before, during and after kids’ shows.”
Of course also to blame is time spent indoors watching TV is time not spent outdoors running around. Also to blame is if when a child gets up from the couch to get a snack the ones available are salty, sugary and well-processed, then that’s what the child is going to eat.
All of this comes down to moderation. If children are fairly active, if they’re eating a well balanced diet, if they’re not spending all their free time every day in front of a TV screen or computer screen, then a little bit more than two hours a day of TV time isn’t the end of the world. Just as you don’t want to co-sleep in a bed full of fluffy blankets and over-sized pillows, you don’t want to have the TV on all day and stock your house with junk food.
What do you think? How much is too much TV? And how do you manage TV screens and computer screens?
photo credit: Sergei/wiki commons