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How Much Screen Time is Too Much for Tots?

watching television

Toddler Watching Television

We all know by now that young children shouldn’t watch too much TV or spend too much time looking at the computer or video games.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under the age of five should have less than two hours of screen time (including TV, DVD, and computer and video games) a day. Too much TV viewing in young children has been associated with developmental delays, aggressive behavior, decreased academic performance, and obesity.

Yet despite all of the evidence that too much screen time is bad, 66% of preschoolers exceed the daily limit, according to a new study soon to be published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Dr. Pooja Tandon and fellow researchers from the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington studied nearly 9000 preschool age children from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.

Researchers based their data on screen time from interviews with their parents and caregivers. In other words, it’s likely that the kids had even more screen time than was reported.

On average, the study found that children under 5 were exposed to 4 hours of screen time a day. Children in home-based child care, center-based child care and not in any child care all exceeded the recommended limits.

In other words, parents and caregivers aren’t listening to the AAP. Why don’t they adhere to recommended guidelines? It’s simple: even when we know our doctor is right, we don’t always listen to his or her advice. And harried, busy parents find it easier to let kids watch TV and video games than to say “no.”

But especially when we’re talking about preschoolers, I think it’s especially important to set limits. Think of all of the fun, mind-expanding activities little kids can be doing instead of staring at a screen.

I also wonder whether the economy plays a role in that parents are scrambling to make ends meet and may end up using the screen as childcare.

Do you set limits on screen time?

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photo: flickr/Axel Bührmann

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