To start with, here are some numbers from the Kaiser Family Foundation:
- 2/3 infants and toddlers watch an average of 2 hours of TV per day
- kids 6 and under watch have an average of 2 hours of “screen-time” (tv, online videos, movies) per day
- kids/teens aged 8-18 spend have a screen time of approximately 4 hours per day, PLUS 2 hours on the computer (outside of schoolwork) and playing video games
Sounds like a lot of screen time right? Well what impact does this have on childhood development and behaviour?
The first couple years of life are crucial for brain development, which occurs largely in a social setting. Screen time can limit this social setting. Also, as children get older excessive tv watching can get in the way of other beneficial activities like playing sports, reading novels, doing schoolwork and socializing with friends and family.
Now this is not to say that television and videos don’t have their role in life and learning. They of course do, and can be beneficial in a number of scenarios including preschoolers learning the alphabet, older children watching documentaries and learning about storytelling and media. And, we of course aren’t saying that the only thing children should be able to watch is education specials, TV in moderation of course is enjoyable. However, in excess it has been found to have a number of negative consequences for young children.
Such consequences include:
- Higher likelihood of being overweight (when tv watching is consistently 4 hours or greater per day)
- Potential increases in aggressive behaviours (if shows, and in this case video games as well, are violent)
- Potential encouragement of risky behaviour
- And more
So what’s the solution? Well…opinions on this are mixed…do you eliminate tv and media all together? That’s kind of difficult in today’s society and may not be necessary. Do programmers increase education content? That isn’t really in our control. So, in most cases the most accessible solution is to monitor the content and time spent on tv by your children. Kidshealth.org has some suggestions for how to most effectively do this for each of the specific behaviour problems mentioned above and a couple others AND offers guidelines for TV content ratings. Visit the link below for these details.