Too Much TV: Toddler Stuck in 'Thomas the Tank' World

thomas the tank engine too much tv
Boy lives in a Thomas the Tank world

How much television is too much for a toddler?  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under the age of 2 shouldn’t be watching any television at all.  And for a 3-year-old, one to two hours a day of quality programming is the max.  But for one mother, there’s no such thing as too much television.  Her little boy is allowed to watch all he wants.  And he watches a lot.

3-year-old Max watches up to five hours of television every day.  And while he enjoys “Hannah Montana” and “Phineas and Ferb,” his favorite show is the more age-appropriate “Thomas the Tank Engine.”  But while that show may be better suited for a kid his age than the Disney stuff, he watches so much of it that he is now stuck in his own little Thomas the Tank world and cannot get out.

According to specialists in California where Max is being treated, his overexposure to television has left him unable to relate to his peers.  He rarely speaks to the other children at preschool and instead wanders around “obsessively repeating phrases” from his favorite show.

And while Max’s case may be an extreme example of what can happen when a young child watches too much television, doctors say it is not unique. And poor Max may pay a heavy price for his mother’s inattention and permissiveness with doctors predicting long-term effects on his development and communication skills.

The AAP issued that policy statement regarding children and television back in 2001.  So, it’s not like parents don’t know by now that too much television can be harmful to young children.  But so many parents continue to ignore that advice and use television as an electronic babysitter.

When I was a child, you couldn’t watch five hours of kid’s television programming every day even if you tried.  There was maybe an hour or two of shows after school and some Saturday morning cartoons and that was it.

But I don’t blame Disney, Nickelodeon or any of the other channels that churn out kid’s shows.  I blame the parents.  I am not anti-television and admit that I myself sometimes plopped my own kid down in front of the boob tube to keep her busy when she was young.  And now, at the age of ten, she loves her some Disney Channel.

But just as I did when she was a toddler, I limit how much screen time she gets each day – and that includes the computer screen.  Because as long as she’s a kid, I am still in charge.

In that same 2001 AAP  policy statement, they referenced a study that found that by the time the average person reaches age 70, he or she will have spent the equivalent of 7 to 10 years watching television.  I am sure we could all think of better ways to spend those years.

Image: Jon Ovington/Flickr

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