family watching tv

How Does Media Use Affect Your Child?

In the average American home, the television is on for more than eight hours per day and children spend approximately seven hours per day using screen media, including cell phones, computers, TVs, and other electronics.

While some TV programs can be educational, too much time spent watching shows with violence, adult themes, and inappropriate behaviors can negatively affect the thoughts, feelings, and actions of your children, particularly during their developmental years. Too much time spent in front of the TV can have negative physical, mental, emotional, and even social effects on young children.

Doctors agree that too much media use or inappropriate programming can negatively affect a child’s health and development. For example:

  • Kids who consistently watch more than four hours of TV per day are more likely to be overweight.
  • Kids who watch violent shows are more likely to be aggressive, but may also fear that bad things will happen to them.

What can you do to make sure your children are watching healthy amounts of TV with appropriate content?

In 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new recommendations for how much media time — including television viewing — your children should have each day. The guidelines below can help ensure safe, age-appropriate media usage for your children.

  • Create a family plan for media use, including cell phone, Internet, and television use.
  • Enforce a ban on media devices during mealtime and before bedtime.
  • Limit all screen time to less than one or two hours daily.
  • Discourage media exposure for children under the age of 2.
  • Keep televisions and Internet-connected devices out of children’s bedrooms.
  • Monitor all media your kids are using, and when possible, watch TV shows, movies, and videos together so you can discuss content when appropriate.

You can limit the number of hours that your kids spend in front of the TV by encouraging them to read, play board games, complete a puzzle, or play with toys. Allowing your children to watch TV as a privilege after completing chores or homework can also help to cut down on the time they spend watching television.

Checking the TV listings and reviews, or pre-screening the shows your children want to watch can help you gauge the appropriateness. You can even come up with a family-friendly viewing schedule so everyone knows when and what they can watch. Setting a good example for your kids by limiting the amount of time you spend watching TV can also help, and doing an outdoor activity as a family can be a fun, healthy alternative.

For more information on how screen media could be affecting your child, talk to his or her doctor or visit the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC website.