The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following: no TV at all for kids under two, and only between 1-2 hours a day for kids over two. The average in the U.S. right now is about 3-4 hours a day for school aged children- not including whatever time they spend playing video games or doing homework on the computer. Here are some things to consider about whether your child may be watching too much TV:
How can I tell if my child is watching too much?
The easy answer way to this question is to decide how much TV you think is appropriate, and then clock their TV time. If it exceeds your preset maximum, cut it back. If you have an older child (tween/ teen), make sure that you explain why to them. They donít have to like it, but they do have to oblige- but you want them to understand why, so that as they get older they can participate in making good choices for themselves. For a school aged child, itís easier to cut back by providing non-TV activities for them to do- that way, they wonít notice the lack of TV time. Have them pick out specific shows they want to see, and then fill in the rest of the time with other activities. For little ones, I advise the same. My toddler doesnít even notice when whole days go by and she hasnít watched TV if sheís busy enough.
Another sign of too much TV time is how your child interacts with his/her environment. As an example, Iíll use my stepdaughter. My stepdaughter watched a lot of TV before our families blended in the care of her afterschool caregiver. When her dad and I married, I was able to see first hand the effect all of that TV had on her (by all that, I mean from about 4pm until about 8 or 9pm everyday). I found that she had a very unrealistic concept of what families were like (she though they worked like they did on TV- where there are no real consequences for bad behavior, and moms never really get upset with their kids) and many of her mannerisms, expressions, and comments were straight from TV characters- it was like living in a sitcom at times. I can recall actual TV scenes that were reenacted word- for- word, and her stated confusion over not receiving the ďTVĒ response from me. But this is how she was figuring out her world, so it was a difficult transition to get her to realize that people in the real world didnít interact and speak like they do on TV most of the time. TV is entertainment- rarely does it mimic real life. This is an extreme example, but you get the idea.
Overall, the amount of TV your kids should watch is up to you- just be smart about it. Remember that too much of anything is not a good thing- TV included- but there are ways to make TV viewing an enjoyable part of your childrenís entertainment options.