Promoting good television habits

The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) has changed the “ No screen before 2” rule and believe kids below 24 months can learn from media under the supervision of parents and care givers.  However, how much time children should spend watching media screens are still debatable but everyone agrees the less is better.  It is still believed that children under 24 months should not have screen time more than 1 – 2 hours and it should not be more than that for toddler and preschool kids also.

Before we further examine how to limit screen time and reduce media exposure in children in early age, let us define screen time.

Screen time refers to the time spent in front of any electronic device for entertainment, learning or social engagement. It includes watching television, listening to music, usage of Internet for social activities or playing games on mobile devices, etc. Screen time is a sedentary activity where your children are being physically inactive.

When it comes to screen time, less is better. Too much television can disturb your child’s sleep patterns, cause behavioral problems, discourage physical activity, reduce social interactions and encroach on active games. Enjoy your free time with your children indulging in other family activities such as reading, visiting museums, walking, cycling or practicing any activity that interests you.  Unstructured playtime is more beneficial for developing mind and body then sedentary activities.

The following tips will help you promote good TV habits at home. They could also help protect your child from the negative influences of television.

Tips for the whole family

  • Create good television habits for your children when they are young. As they grow, it will become more difficult to implement new rules and set limits.
  • Children learn by observing. Set an example by your own television habits.
  • Encourage your child to watch educational programs on nature, science, the arts, music or history.
  • Explain your family’s television rules to those who care for your children, such as babysitters and grandparents. When visiting others, teach your children, they can tell if they are afraid or if they do not want to see a particular show.
  • Violence on television can affect the behavior of your child or adolescent. Young children should not watch programs that contain violence, sexually explicit scenes or coarse language.
  • Turn off the TV when you are not using it, for example, during meals and study periods. Do not put the television in background noise.
  • Never install TVs and video games in your child’s room.
  • Your child should always go to bed at the same time. They should not go to bed later because of a television show. If your child or teen wants to see a program that is broadcast after bedtime, consider recording it.

Advice for young children (toddlers and preschoolers)

  • Make sure your child is watching shows you know. Whenever possible, watch together. Avoid using television as a babysitter.
  • Talk about ideas and activities that your child sees on television, such as sharing, giving, love or reciting the alphabet. Plan follow-up activities to teach them the importance of these lessons.
  • Set up a video library of your child’s favorite shows. Young children enjoy watching the same programs repeatedly.