September 22, 2017

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How much TV is too much for your child?

SpongeBob SquarePantsThere has been a lot of talk in the media recently about fast-paced cartoons and TV shows and what affect that has on our children.  TV has changed a lot over the years and even shows like Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers that have been on for decades are much different today than they were in the 70’s.  Cartoons in the 70’s were produced at a much slower pace compared to today’s cartoons; pace referring to how many screens are viewed per minute and there are concerns that these faster-paced shows, like SpongeBob SquarePants, do have an affect on children’s attention span.

What are the recommendations?

There is a whole host of reasons why you want to limit screen time, not just for attention issues. Studies show that obesity, as well as a lot of other health problems, is directly related to TV watching or any screen time.  Today what we are seeing is infants as early as four months of age are being put in front of TV’s.

My first recommendation, based on the science, is absolutely NO TV time until children are at least 2 years old; then to limit the screen time of ALL media to no more than 2 hours per day.  Once you rise above 2 hours of screen time per day you start to see a rise in obesity and other health-related problems.

Teenagers fall under the same rule as younger children.  Two hours of TV is really a lot of TV when you consider a child that is in school and comes home with homework to do, where do they fit in 2 hours of TV with all of that?

Should I let my child have a TV in the bedroom?

Absolutely no TV in the bedroom!  It’s definitely related to sleep issues as well as other problems.  As the amount of screen time goes up, so do the other issues that go along with overuse.  At that point it’s not just about attention, it’s about sleep issues, substance abuse, difficulty in school, and obesity.  To keep our children safe and healthy, the recommendation is no TV in the bedroom and no free access to Internet either.

I’m a parent of four teenagers and we are constantly looking and saying “how do we control this?” They have cell phones now that access the Internet, they text their friends, have access to computers, IPods, IPads, gaming systems and all of those things provide media exposure and entertainment.  It leaves us with concerns that we are raising generations of kids that can’t interact with people other than through social media.

So what can parents do?

As parents you need to have a firm rule and set a time where after that time there is no watching TV, no texting or accessing the Internet and stick to it.  You can monitor how much time is spent in front of the TV and you can also access records that show you if your child is accessing their cell phone.

Dr. Michael Bateman, ACMC Pediatrics

Dr. Michael Bateman, Pediatrics

When talking about screen time, that statement really needs to be expanded from TV to all media, no more than 2 hours a day and absolutely no screen time for children under the age of 2.  It’s hard to believe that 4 month old babies are watching TV and that there are TV channels that have music and patterns for babies to watch; this is not recommended.

Parents should be aware that children with higher levels of screen time have higher levels of childhood stress, which puts them at risk not only for obesity but also for a number of stress-related morbidities like mood disorders, substance abuse, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and asthma.  It’s so different now; as a parent you see the over use and over exposure and you are concerned about it, but then it becomes more about how to control it.

If you have more questions about screen time, talk to your healthcare provider at your child’s next check-up.

We want to hear from you! Share your thoughts below on our blog.  What do you do to limit screen time at home?