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Television and Children

As children grow and develop, they can be easily influenced by what they see and hear, especially on television. While television programs can be educational, many children watch too much television. TV programs can show children violent behavior that you do not want them to imitate, or that can cause fear. TV may also show children poor eating habits through commercials for high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. Too much TV watching can also take away time from reading, studying, learning activities, play, and/or exercise. Television can also show alcohol and/or drug use, smoking, and sexual behavior before a child is emotionally ready to understand these issues and practice good decision-making.

Parents can help decrease the harmful effects of television watching by screening the type of programming and limiting the amount of time a child watches television. The following are suggestions for helping set good television viewing habits:

  • Choose programs for your child to watch. Always plan what your child will see on TV. Do not turn on the TV randomly. Give choices between two programs you think are appropriate for your child.

  • Limit TV viewing to 1 or 2 hours a day for children older than 2 years of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than 2 years should not watch TV at all.

  • Turn to educational shows from the local Public Broadcasting Station (PBS), or from programming such as the Discovery Channel, Learning Channel, or History Channel.

  • Watch TV with your child. Talk about what happened on the show. Talk about what was good or bad about the program. Talk about the difference between reality and make-believe.

  • Turn the TV off if the program is something you believe your child should not see.

  • Do not assume all cartoons are acceptable and appropriate, as many cartoons contain violence.

  • Many daytime programs (such as soap operas and talk shows) are not appropriate for children.

  • Be a good example to your child by not watching too much television yourself. Be involved in other activities, especially reading. Read to your child.

  • Encourage play and exercise for your child. Plan other fun activities for your child, so he or she has choices instead of TV.

  • Limit using TV as a reward for good behavior. Try a trip to the park, a festival, playground, or a visit to a relative's or friend's house instead.

  • Do not allow TV watching during mealtimes.

Online Medical Reviewer: Finke, Amy, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 4/29/2014
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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