Anyone with kids knows how awesome the TV can be, especially when it comes time to make dinner or take an important phone call. Often, those precious minutes tick by way too fast, which can lead to an unknown amount of TV being watched. As a parent we often ask, how much is too much?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should follow these guidelines:
1. Limit children’s total media time (with entertainment media) to no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming per day.
2. Remove television sets from children’s bedrooms.
3. Discourage television viewing for children younger than 2 years, and encourage more interactive activities that will promote proper brain development, such as talking, playing, singing, and reading together.
4. Monitor the shows children and adolescents are viewing. Most programs should be informational, educational, and nonviolent.
5. View television programs along with children, and discuss the content.
6. Use controversial programming as a stepping-off point to initiate discussions about family values, violence, sex and sexuality, and drugs.
7. Use the DVR wisely to show or record high-quality, educational programming for children.
8. Support efforts to establish comprehensive media-education programs in schools.
9. Encourage alternative entertainment for children, including reading, athletics, hobbies, and creative play
As the parent of a two-year-old, I can tell you that some of these guidelines are hard to follow. I find #3 to be pretty much impossible in my house. My little girl LOVES LOVES LOVES Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, which she started watching around 15 months of age and I can’t imagine a day without doing the hot dog dance! On weekend mornings my husband loves to snuggle up with her and watch Curious George…a tradition that has been occurring long before she turned two. How can that be so bad?
I do try to limit her media time to 2 hours, however, as a working-stay-at-home mom, sometimes I have to bend the rules with the iPad a little bit. She has a lot of puzzles and age appropriate games on the iPad that keep her busy when I have a meeting or I need to get some work done outside of her nap time. She also has apps where she can watch her favorite shows. Oftentimes she will put on a show, watch a few minutes and then run off and play, then she will come back and watch a few more minutes and then off she goes again.
I think the most important thing is to have a good balance. I know my daughter is watching safe, educational television, but she’s also getting plenty of time outdoors and time with me that does not involve any kind of media, such as arts and crafts. So while some days she watches more TV than others, I try not to beat myself up about it and strive for less screen time the next day.