Updated research information on how screen time changes the brains of our children and other information on the topic of technology.
The following link will take you to the article on the latest research:
FAMILY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INFLUENCE IN A CHILD'S LIFE, BUT TELEVISION, VIDEOS AND GAMES ARE NOT FAR BEHIND. THESE MEDIA CAN INFORM, ENTERTAIN, AND TEACH US. HOWEVER, SOME OF WHAT THEY TEACH MAY NOT BE THE THINGS YOU WANT YOUR CHILD TO LEARN. TV PROGRAMS, VIDEO GAMES AND COMMERCIALS OFTEN SHOW VIOLENCE, ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE, AND SEXUAL CONTENT THAT MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN OR TEENS.
HOW SCREEN TIME AFFECTS YOUR CHILD: THERE ARE MANY WAYS THAT MEDIA AFFECT YOUR CHILD'S LIFE. WHEN YOUR CHILD SITS DOWN TO AN ELECTRONIC DEVICE, CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:
- Activities with family, friends, or neighbors
- Learning a hobby, sport, instrument, or an art
- Helping with household tasks; gardening, dusting, folding clothes, etc.
Children in the United States watch over 6 hours of TV every day. Watching movies and playing video games only adds to time spent in front of a screen. It may be tempting to use television, movies, and video games to keep your child busy, but your child needs to spend as much time growing and learning as possible. Playing, reading, and spending time with friends and family are much healthier than sitting in front of a screen. Spending time in nature is a critical part of the development of the mind and body. Children do not learn how to interact and solve problems while watching a screen. They need real experience to learn these skills.
Children who spend too much time in front of a screen are more likely to be overweight and weak. They do not spend as much time running, jumping, and getting the exercise they need. They also see many commercials for unhealthy foods, such as candy, snacks, sugary cereals, and drinks during children's programs. Commercials almost never give information about the foods children should eat to keep healthy.
If your child watches 3 to 4 hours of non-educational TV per day, he will have seen about 8,000 murders on TV by the time he finishes grade school. Children who see violence on television may not understand that real violence hurts and kills people. Even if the "good guys" use violence, children may learn that it is okay to use force to handle aggression and settle disagreements. It is best not to let your child watch violent programs and cartoons. Video games often depict violence and criminal activity.
Television and video games expose children to adult behaviors but it usually does not show the risks and results of early sexual activity. On TV, sexual activity is shown as fun, exciting, and without any risks. Your child may copy what she sees on TV in order to feel more grown up. Woman are often depicted as sexual objects which gives both boys and girls negative ideas about gender.
Alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs
Young people today are surrounded by messages that say drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes or cigars are normal activities. These messages don't say that alcohol and tobacco harm people and may lead to death. Beer and wine are some of the most advertised products on television. TV programs and commercials often show people who drink and smoke as healthy, energetic, sexy, and successful. It is up to you to teach your child the truth about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
The average child sees more than 20,000 commercials each year. Commercials are quick, fast-paced, and entertaining. After seeing the same commercials over and over, your child can easily remember a song, slogan, or catchy phrase. Ads may try to convince your child that having a certain toy or eating a certain food will make him happy or popular. Older children can begin to understand how ads use pictures, music, and sound to entertain. Kids need to know that ads try to convince people to buy things they may not need.
Please read the linked article above for the latest research. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no screen time at all for children age 2 or younger. For older children, the Academy recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours per day of educational, nonviolent programs and/or screen time of any sort. There is a growing body of evidence that suggest negative changes in the way the brain functions and develops in children who watch TV or other screens at an early age, or too much after age 2. Screen activities are increasingly linked to ADHD and other learning disabilities. Children of all ages are constantly learning new things. The first 2 years of life are especially important for the growth and development of your child's brain. During this time, children need good, positive interaction with other children and adults. Without this interaction children lack social skills and may become antisocial. The ability to concentrate, to draw conclusions and remember are also deeply affected. Older children need face to face interactions to develop confidence and social skills.
What We Can Do
As a parent, there are many ways you can help your child develop positive viewing habits. The following tips may help:
1. Set limits
Limit your child's use of TV, movies, and video and computer games to no more than 1 or 2 hours per day. Do not let your child watch TV while doing homework. Do not have a TV, computer or video games in the child's room.
2. Plan your child's viewing
Instead of flipping through channels, use a program guide and the TV ratings to help you and your child choose shows. Turn the TV on to watch the program you chose and turn it off when the program is over. Monitor what your child watches at the homes of friends and family.
3. Watch TV with your child
Whenever possible, watch TV with your child and talk about what you see. If your child is very young, she may not be able to tell the difference between a show, a commercial, a cartoon, or real life. Explain that characters on TV are make-believe and not real. Some "reality-based" programs may appear to be "real," but most of these shows focus on stories that will attract as many viewers as possible. Often these are stories about tragedy and violence. Much of their content is not appropriate for children. Young children may worry that what they see could happen to them or their family. News broadcasts also contain violent or inappropriate material. If your schedule prevents you from watching TV with your child, talk to her later about what she watched. Better yet, record the programs so that you can watch them with your child at a later time.
4. Find the right message
Even a poor program can turn out to be a learning experience if you help your child find the right message. Some television programs may portray people as stereotypes. Talk with your child about the real-life roles of women, the elderly, and people of other races that may not be shown on television. Discuss ways that people are different and ways that we are the same. Help your child learn tolerance for others. Remember, if you don't agree with certain subject matter, you can either turn off the TV or explain why you object.
5. Help your child resist commercials
Don't expect your child to be able to resist ads for toys, candy, snacks, cereal, drinks, or new TV programs without your help. When your child asks for products advertised on TV, explain that the purpose of commercials is to make people want things they may not need. Limit the number of commercials your child sees by watching public television stations (PBS). You can also record programs and leave out the commercials or buy or rent children's videos.
6. Give other options
Watching TV can become a habit for your child. Help your child find other things to do with his time, such as the following:
7. Set a good example
You are the most important role model in your child's life. Limiting your own screen time and choosing programs carefully will help your child do the same.
8. Express your views
When you like or don't like something you see on television, make yourself heard. Write to the TV station, network, or the program's sponsor. Stations, networks, and sponsors pay attention to letters from the public. If you think a commercial is misleading, write down the product name, channel, and time you saw the commercial and describe your concerns. Call your local Better Business Bureau.
9. Install blocks on your TV to eliminate any possibility of your child watching inappropriate programming.
10. Decide if and when you want your child to have a cell phone. A good beginning option is a limited function phone such as Jitterbug.