How much television your child is permitted to watch may not seem like a huge concern. However, healthcare experts agree that as childhood obesity rates continue to rise, there is a direct link between obesity rates and inactivity. Children in many schools throughout the United States, and other parts of the world, are faced with fewer opportunities for physical activity while in school. This means parents must accept the responsibility of keeping their kids active.
As if inactivity weren’t enough of a concern, media overload is also an issue for many families. Children are inundated with advertisements and programming that portrays mixed messages. Depending on how much television a child watches, they can view literally thousands of acts of violence before they ever go to kindergarten. If you are concerned with how much television your child should be watching, you will need to take an active role in monitoring it.
In today’s world, the recommendations for how much television a child should watch is measured in screen time. This means that any screen, be it computer, television, or video game, is all considered the same. For every hour a child sits in front of a screen, that’s one hour they are remaining sedentary and one hour they are not getting any physical exercise. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children over the age of two should be limited to no more than two hours of screen time per day, while children under the age of two should be permitted none.
This particular guideline is established for health reasons, and while it’s probably a very accurate guideline, it can be difficult to maintain – especially for older children. As a parent, you should use your best judgment and take into consideration how much physical activity your child gets. When trying to evaluate how much television and screen time your child is allowed, don’t apply computer time for homework to their time limit. If you feel your child is spending an excessive amount of time on the computer doing homework, monitor their usage and talk to their teacher if it’s a genuine problem.
You might choose to limit how much television your child watches and then set separate limits for computer and video games. Most kids will accept these limits and will be able to find other, more productive ways to entertain themselves. If your child is resistant to screen time limits, try to determine where their resistance is coming from. If they have been entertaining themselves for hours each day with cartoons and video games, they may not know how to find other things to do. Help them find activities they enjoy that get them physically and mentally active.
Television, computers, and video games shouldn’t have to be taboo in your home, but they also shouldn’t run your lives. Helping your kids to see that will help them lead healthier, more productive lives.