Some aspects of pediatric care are obvious—when your child is sick, they should rest, drink fluids, and visit the doctor if things don’t improve. But other factors—like how much TV time is too much—can be harder to pin down. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics has set forth some guidelines for the role of media in a child's life. By following these recommendations, you’ll encourage your child's social development and prevent physical problems related to a sedentary lifestyle.
The AAP recommends no screen time for children under 18 months. Starting at 18 months, you may introduce a small amount of quality educational programming, which you should watch together rather than leaving your child alone. From ages two to five, limit screen time to no more than an hour per day, once again focusing on educational media. After the age of five, you should adjust your child's viewing schedule to fit their needs, ensuring they also have adequate time for exercise and unstructured play.
There are several reasons to limit screen time in children under five. First, children at this age are developing quickly, and their development relies on having time and encouragement to explore their environment and interact with other people. The more time they spend playing and problem-solving, the more they learn, whereas watching TV is a passive activity which doesn't encourage development.
Second, much of modern media, even children's programming, is written without pediatric care in mind. Children at this age are too young to tell fantasy from reality, and may absorb negative messages from television. The stories and images your child will see often promote violence as problem-solving behavior, which can encourage children to act up. They may also see material which reinforces harmful racial and gender stereotypes.
Finally, the more time your child spends in front of a screen, the less time they'll spend in active, energetic play, which is a critical part of pediatric care. Without adequate exercise, your child is at risk of health and behavioral problems.
Television can be enjoyable and entertaining, but too much television is a risk to your child's health and development. You can avoid these negative effects by encouraging physical activity, playing with your child, and setting hard limits on screen time.
The 181st Street Urgent Care Center in New York, NY, offers medical care to residents of all ages. Visit their walk-in clinic for medical advice, or call them at (347) 756-6000 to speak with a bilingual staff member. You can also contact the medical center online.