We have all heard about how television and computer games can be harmful to children, but often we wonder, “How harmful can it be or how much is too much?” Most kids today are plugged into television or video games long before they begin attending school. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation:
— Two-thirds of infants and toddlers watch a screen an average of two hours a day
— Kids under age 6 watch an average of about two hours of screen media a day, primarily TV and videos or DVDs
— Kids and teens 8 to 18 years spend nearly four hours a day in front of a TV screen and almost two additional hours on the computer (outside of schoolwork) and playing video games
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under 2 years old not watch any TV and that those older than 2 watch no more than one-to-two hours a day of quality programming.
The first two years of life are considered a critical time for brain development. TV and other electronic media can get in the way of exploring, playing and interacting with parents and others, which encourages learning and healthy physical and social development.
As kids get older, too much screen time can interfere with activities such as being physically active, reading, doing homework, playing with friends and spending time with family.
Too much television can be detrimental as children who consistently spend more than four hours per day watching TV are more likely to be overweight; kids who view violent acts are more likely to show aggressive behavior but also fear that the world is scary and that something bad will happen to them; and TV characters often depict risky behaviors, such as smoking and drinking, and also reinforce gender-role and racial stereotypes.
There are some options for parents to limit media time with kids, including:
— Limit the number of TV-watching hours. Stock the TV room with plenty of other non-screen entertainment (books, kids’ magazines, toys, puzzles, board games, etc.) to encourage kids to do something other than watch the tube.
— Turn the TV off during meals.
— Don’t allow kids to watch TV while doing homework
— Treat TV as a privilege to be earned — not a right. Establish and enforce family TV viewing rules, such as TV is allowed only after chores and homework are completed.
— Try a weekday ban. Schoolwork, sports activities, and job responsibilities make it tough to find extra family time during the week. Record weekday shows or save TV time for weekends and you’ll have more family togetherness time to spend on meals, games, physical activity and reading during the week.
— Set a good example by limiting your own TV viewing.
— Check the TV listings and program reviews ahead of time for programs your family can watch together. Choose shows that foster interest and learning in hobbies and education.
— Preview programs before your kids watch them.
— Come up with a family TV schedule that you all agree upon each week
— Watch TV together. If you can’t sit through the whole program, at least watch the first few minutes to assess the tone and appropriateness, then check in throughout the show.
— Talk to kids about what they see on TV and share your own beliefs and values. If something you don’t approve of appears on the screen, you can turn off the TV, and then use the opportunity to ask thought-provoking questions.
Information referenced from www.kidshealth.org. Clark County Health Department supports healthy and physically activity lifestyles and can share opportunities available in the community for the entire family to be engaged. The HANDS program supports first time parents with vital information about early brain development and growth. For more information on these programs or any health department service, please call 744-4482 or visit the website at www.clarkhealthdept.org.