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Television Limits for Children

​​​​​On average, children in the U.S. watch four to six hours of television each day. By the time they are 18, most will have spent more time watching television than in the classroom. While there are programs that can teach our children good values, there many more programs that can have a poor impact.

Television violence has a significant negative impact on our children. Excessive viewing of violence may:

  • Numb a child's sympathy toward victims of violence
  • Cause a child to be excessively apprehensive about personal safety or his or her future
  • Cause a young child to play more aggressively

Tips for Preventing Excessive or Inappropriate Television Viewing:

  • Alternative activities - Encourage participation in sports, games, hobbies and music.
  • Reading - Start reading to your child as an infant. When he or she gets older, encourage reading instead of television.
  • Limit viewing - Set a limit of two hours of television, or less, per day. Allow extra time for occasional educational programs. Do not put a television in your child’s bedroom.
  • Don't use as a distraction - Although it is easy for parents to use television to distract or "babysit" preschool-age children, viewing should be limited to programs and videos specifically written for this age group. Preschoolers typically cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality. As a result, many television shows can cause fears.
  • Use the TV program guide - Instead of "surfing" for a program of interest, teach your children to search the TV guide to find shows that interest them before turning on the television.
  • Forbid violent shows - Pay attention to what shows your child watches. Many of the shows designed for children and teens contain violence, sex, drugs and alcohol. Often parents must actually watch a show their child is interested in to discover these topics are being addressed. Be clear which shows are okay to watch and turn off the TV when you don't approve.
  • Talk about the violence - If your older child does watch shows with violence, point out how it can hurt the victims and their families. It is better to discuss these things with your child than to ignore them.

Excessive amounts of television viewing can be harmful to a child and lead to obesity. It decreases active time that could be spent playing with peers and participating in sports, music and other activities. Heavy viewing can reduce school performance by interfering with studying and reading.

On the other hand, appropriate television viewing can educate children about different lifestyles and cultures, teach humanity toward others and instruct on hobbies such as cooking and crafting.

Parents who limit their own television time and watch healthy programs can send a clear message to their children about responsible television viewing.

Screen Time;Family and Parenting Behavioral Health