Television and Your Preschool Child

The family is the most important influence in the life of a preschooler. TV also plays an important role in what the young child learns. While television can be educational and entertaining, sometimes kids learn things from TV that we don’t want them to learn. It’s important for parents to know how television may influence their young child’s behavior, health, and interactions. We know a lot about children and television because there have been thousands of studies on the subject.

How much time do we spend watching TV?

– On average, children ages 2‐5 spend 32 hours a week in front of a TV.
– The TV is “usually” on during meals in 63% of families.
– The TV is on “most of the time” in 51% of families.
– Children with a TV in their bedroom watch 1‐2 hours more TV each day than children without their own TV

How can TV affect your child?

– Watching TV takes time away from activities that are good for children such as playing with friends, reading, using imagination, and being physically active.
– Children who watch more TV spend less time talking and playing with family members. Parents talk less to their children when the TV is turned on‐‐ even when they are not actively watching a program.
– Children who spend more time in front of the TV are more likely to be overweight.
– Children are influenced by ads which may promote unhealthy snack foods and may be used to market toys, games and other products to young children. On average, children see tens of thousands of commercials each year.
– Excessive TV watching may contribute to sleep problems, behavior problems, and risky behavior.
– Children who watch scary or violent shows are more likely to show aggressive behavior. Even programs made for children may scare or upset them.
– TV watching in some young children may be associated with problems later in life such as lower grades in school, difficulty paying attention, and increased rates of smoking and alcohol use.

What is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics?

– If your child is less than two years old, do not allow him or her to watch TV.
– From ages 2‐5 years, limit TV time to 1 hour per day.
– Plan what to watch. Choose programs which match your child’s age and level of understanding.
– Set an example by limiting your own TV time and finding other activities to share with your child.
– Watch TV with your child and talk about what you see. Young children may not understand the difference between cartoons, commercials, shows and real life.
– Remember that talking, reading, and playing are more important to a child’s development than any TV show or video.

1. (Patient education website from the American Academy of Pediatrics)Website needs to be specified

2. (Bright Futures is a national initiative to promote healthy children and
families.)Website needs to be specified

3. Christakis, Dmitri (2009) “Audible Television and Decreased Adult words, Infant Vocalizations, and Conversational Turns”, Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 63(6), 554 – 558.

4. Strasburger, Victor et. al. (2010) “Health Effects of Media on Children and Adolescents”, Pediatrics,
125(4), 756‐765.

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The Center for Child Health and Development makes this material available with the understanding that the viewer exercises their own judgment with respect to the use of the material and the individual’s particular circumstances. Graduate students compile information on various topics of interest in the field of developmental disabilities and summarize. Material may include views that are not necessarily those of the Center for Child Health and Development, nor reflect commitment to a particular course of action. Material may contain links to websites for user convenience but do not constitute an endorsement of the site or contents. Use of this information is not meant to replace appropriate medical care and follow-up. In no event shall the Center for Child Health and Development be liable for any incident or consequential damages resulting from the use of the material.

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