Being Smart about Toddlers and TV
TV is an integral part of American life, and there’s plenty of debate as to how much is too much. The question is even more important when discussing children rather than adults, and it’s most important when discussing the very youngest children, toddlers.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV for children under two, and no more than two hours/day for those older than 2.
The primary concern revolves around brain development. Children learn chiefly by exploring and experimenting, not by watching. Time in front of the TV is time your toddler is not learning through physical and social interactions.
There’s also physical health issues. Children spending many hours in front of the TV are much more likely to be overweight, which will only further encourage avoidance of physical activity.
Content is of prime importance. Children are impressionable. Exposure to bad behavior on TV can impress upon a child that such things are acceptable or even desirable. Consider these issues when shaping your toddler’s TV viewing:
Avoid programs containing sex, violence, and bad language is common sense to many parents, but also consider behavior such as smoking or drinking – things you do not want your child to think are cool.
Avoid cartoons. While they may be acceptable for older kids, they aren’t for toddlers. The frantic activity can overstimulate them. In addition, very young children cannot differentiate between fantasy and reality. Cartoon violence is as genuine as real-life violence in their eyes, and many cartoons are surprisingly violent. Remember how many times Wild E. Coyote fell off cliffs and tried dropping anvils on the Road Runner.
Find programs that encourage your child to repeat words, sing, or dance with the characters. This provides the physical interaction necessary for toddler to really grow.
Your own behavior can also play an important role.
Watch with your child. It promotes more interaction and can be quality time spent together.
Encourage your child to ask questions and relate what you’re watching with his own life.
Never think of the TV as a babysitter. That sets up the potential trap of turning the TV on every time you need a break from parenting and generally develops into longer and longer times the child is in front of the TV.
Put the TV in an entertainment center with closable doors. A child is much less likely to want to watch it if he doesn’t see it. Instead, he’ll be more attracted to his toys.
Television doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but is a tool which can be used properly or improperly. Use it to help your child grow rather than to just mindlessly entertain and you’re setting the stage for healthy development in these formative years.