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Screen Time and Children

Two children eating popcorn while watching TV

As children grow and develop, they can be easily influenced by what they see and hear, especially from digital media. Digital media can include TV, the internet, and smart devices. Some programs can be educational. But many children watch too much digital media. Many programs can show children violent behavior that you don't want them to imitate, or that can cause fear. Digital media may also show children poor eating habits through commercials for high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. Too much screen time can also take away from reading, studying, learning activities, play, and exercise. Digital media can also show alcohol and drug use, smoking, and sexual behavior. Your child may see these things before they are emotionally ready to understand these issues. And before they can make good decisions.

As a parent, you can help decrease the harmful effects of digital media. You can monitor the type of programming and limit your child's screen time. Here are some tips for setting good viewing habits:

  • Choose programs for your child to watch. Always plan what your child will be watching. Don't turn on a viewing device randomly. Give choices between 2 programs you think are appropriate for your child.

  • Limit screen time to 1 or 2 hours a day for children older than 2 years. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than 2 years should not watch digital media.

  • Turn to educational shows from the local Public Broadcasting Station (PBS), or from programming such as the Discovery Channel, Learning Channel, or History Channel.

  • Watch programs with your child. Talk about what happened on the show. Talk about what was good or bad about the program. Talk about the difference between reality and make-believe.

  • Turn off the TV or other device if the program is something you believe your child should not see.

  • Don't assume all cartoons are acceptable and appropriate. Many cartoons contain violence.

  • Many daytime programs such as soap operas and talk shows are not appropriate for children.

  • Be a good example to your child by not watching too much TV or digital media yourself. Limit your own screen time. Be involved in other activities, especially reading. Read to your child.

  • Encourage play and exercise for your child. Plan other fun activities for your child, so he or she has choices instead of screen time.

  • Limit screen time as a reward for good behavior. Try a trip to the park, a festival, playground, or a visit to a relative's or friend's house instead.

  • Don't allow screen time during meals.

Online Medical Reviewer: Amy Finke RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2018
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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