Screens are everywhere! Computers, tablets, phones, televisions; even our watches, are touch screen and interactive. How do you insure your child is not being overly exposed to too much screen time, too much TV?! TV can be educational for older children (two years and older). Here is what watching too much TV, too young can do to your child, and the benefits of watching some TV WITH your child.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently changed their stance on TV. The AAP’s earlier stance was that children under the age of 2 should not watch any TV/screen time PERIOD. Now they are changing their stance because it is virtually impossible not expose your child to some type of screen before the age of 2. But parents should still keep in mind that although children under the age of 2 will be exposed to some type of screen be it TV, computer, tablet, or phone before the age of 2, they should not let their children sit mindless in front of the TV without setting limits and establishing parameters.
The Bad of TV watching
Screens are everywhere but that does not mean that your child should constantly watch one. TV does provide you with a moment to cook dinner, or get dressed, but by no means should the TV become a baby sitter and here is why:
- TV does not replace having a face to face conversation with your child. Children learn language from hearing us speak. When the TV is not on parents usually speak about 940 word per hour. When the TV is on that number drops to 770! Hearing fewer words can cause language development delays. AND when the TV is on in the background it enables your child from focusing on the conversations (which means they are hearing virtually no words) that your are having which will also affect language acquisition. Lower language acquisitions means your child has less words to express themselves, and less of a vocabulary bank to use to comprehend.
- Children who constantly watch TV have shorter attention spans. The images on a TV screen change about every 3 seconds, with dramatic changes. Compare to reading a book where the images are stationary and you have to sit for at least 20 minutes to see small changes. When a child is use to constant changes, combined with the bright lights and sounds of TV it makes it very difficult to pay attention to a simple page book. Children who are unable to focus have a harder time paying attention in school, and struggle academically.
- TV affects social interactions. Children learn acceptable social behaviors from watching face-to-face, in person social interactions. If your child has to learn how to interact with others through TV, they may become unable to expressive themselves correctly or play with others in a safe way. TV portrays violence, even kid friendly movies, portray characters hitting and sometimes performing acts that would lead to considerable harm in real life. If your child thinks this is acceptable social behavior because you have not demonstrated, or discussed appropriate social interactions, then they will do what they see on TV.
- Eating in front of the TV can lead to obesity. When the TV is on children become enchanted with the lights and sounds. When children eat their meals in front of the TV, they are unable to listen to their body tell them that they are full, so they over eat. Your child may eat anything while the TV is on, including their veggies, but you do not want them to over eat. Also food commercials are targeted at young children. The companies that show commercials during children’s programming create commerical for children. The food commercials show sugary, high in fat foods that your child will beg for after watching the commercial.
- Children who have TVs in their room watch two and a half more hours of TV per day, then children who do not have TVs in their rooms. Children who have TVs in their room also have trouble sleeping and staying asleep. Even if your child falls asleep with the TV on, it’s not really helping them to sleep. Children with TVs in their rooms stay up later, and wake up during the night to watch more TV. A tired child does not perform well in school.
- In the US watching TV has replaced going outside to play and reading books. Children learn pretend play by playing with others, or playing by themselves. If they are watching TV instead of having time for pretend play they either become unable to engage in imaginary play, or the play becomes very short and not as thought out.
The Good of Watching TV
- Watching TV with your child is a great way to make sure they understand what is happening. If your child is watching TV make sure that you watch with them and TALK to them. The educational value of TV increases when parents watch with their children.
- Watch TV shows that allow time for your child to think and respond. When watching child appropriate TV shows for young ones, when a character ask a question there is always a long pause. This gives your child time to think and respond to what they are watching. When watching with them participate, answer questions and ask your child what they are thinking. It can lead to a good conversation.
- Model appropriate TV guidelines. Being a parent is not about the old adage ‘Do as I say and not as I do!’ Children copy and repeat everything you say and do. If you want your children to learn responsible TV/screen time behavior then model it to them. That means no cell phones during meals, or texting while driving. When you are constantly attached to a screen you miss out on conversations (which leads to language development!) and you are letting your child know that you are unable to detach yourself from a screen. If mom and dad can’t put the phone down or limit TV, then why should they stop watching TV, or playing on the tablet?
- Create screen free zones in your home, like your child’s room and the kitchen. Does your child need a TV in their room at 5? Absolutely not! Young children are unable to monitor the amount of time they spend watching TV. If you place a TV in your young child’s room you are giving them the responsibility of deciding when and for how long the TV will be on. While at the kitchen table do not allow any phones, tablets or TV watching at the table. It’s family time, spend time with your family technology free.
- When your child wants to play a game on your phone or tablet check out child friendly games. Before letting your child chose the game they want from the App store check reviews at places like:
Watching TV can lead to lower attention spans, poor social skills and vocabulary. If you are going to allow your child to watch TV, watch with them and make sure that watching TV does not replace going outside to play or reading a book. If you are going to allow your child to watch TV or have screen time make sure that your set guidelines, you are there to watch and discuss with them and that you are choosing child appropriate TV shows and apps that will help your child academically.