This is a great question that we consistently get from all of our parents, “What is too much TV?”. Watching television is a wonderful social activity for both adults and children; however, where do you draw the line of what is too much television?
KidSpeak’s General Rules for TV Watching
1. No television for children under two years of age. There is a lot of research being done linking attention deficit difficulties with young children that watch TV.
2. For children two years and older, somewhere between 30 minutes to one hour a day is okay. Have the total TV time broken up into different segments (i.e., 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening). In addition, we want to make sure that what they are watching is interactive and gets them thinking, talking and learning.
3. Variety is key. If they love Bob the Builder and only Bob the Builder, don’t take it completely away but only let them watch Bob once a day or once every other day. Also if they love one episode of Thomas the Train, don’t take that episode completely away, but only allow them to watch it once a week.
4. Use the TV for three main purposes:
-Parent and child time together
5. Too much is too much
There are so many other things that you can do with children under the age of two instead of watching television. We always tell parents that if you are using TV watching time as a time for you to get work done, then change the television to the radio, a CD or an MP3 player. Always have a few CDs or a kid friendly playlist ready to go. Turn on the radio to a fun kid station or even turn on classical music and allow your child to explore their toys to fun motivating songs.
With children two years and older, the main key is to find a nice balance of television watching within your daily schedule. Maybe that’s 15 minutes in the morning so that you can clean up breakfast and finish getting ready. Maybe it’s 15 minutes in the afternoon so that you and your child can take a break. Maybe it’s 30 minutes in the evening so they can bond with Daddy. Again, the key is to find what works in your schedule and keep it somewhere between 30 minutes to one hour a day.
Remember that variety is the key. We all have our favorite movie that we can watch over and over again and it never gets old but we also like to watch other movies too. The same is true for your child. They probably have one character that they love the most and one episode that they love the most. So don’t take it away from them, but don’t allow them to watch it every day. Again, think about what works best for your family and decide on every other day or once a week.
Television watching for your child is a great break for them as well as for yourself. At the end of the day when your child has been working so hard on his/her social communication skills, they will need a break and it is okay if it is the television. Remember moms and dads all need breaks too. With that said, it is important to note that a break is just that…….a break. It is not one to three hours long. It is a quick break, 10 to 30 minutes. This depends on your child and on their day. They may need longer breaks on different days.
Television is a great teaching tool. Sit down with your child and watch an educational show like Sesame Street or even a silly show like Tom and Jerry. While you watch, talk to your child about what you are seeing, what the characters are doing, what you like/don’t like, etc. (“Ernie is so silly! Don’t like Oscar!”) If you use television this way, you have just optimized an amazing natural language learning moment in your child’s life. Remember to be careful…..using it as a teaching tool where your child is watching by themselves can be dangerous if it is too much or too long. It is important to monitor their time. One short educational show a day or every other day is a good rule of thumb.
Television is also a great opportunity for bonding time with your child. Make it fun and exciting for both you and your child. You can watch television and eat your favorite foods together. Here you can work on “watching Mommy’s favorite show” or “eating Daddy’s favorite snack”. This is a great opportunity where you can share your thoughts and feelings with your child.
Too much television may be dangerous. Too much TV watching may lead to perseverative speech where your child is using “memorized chunks” of language in a non-communicative form and does not understand what they are saying. Another danger of too much TV is when TV becomes their only motivation…..they are no longer motivated by a sticker, stamp, verbal praise or approval…..only the TV. In addition, just like all children, too much TV can make one sleepy and unwilling to work.
Television is a wonderful learning tool for your child if used correctly. Since all children are different, it is important to know how much television is appropriate for your child. If you are not sure how much is too much for your child here are a few ideas: 1) keep a journal tracking how much TV they watched and how they did at school that day/how was their behavior all day/etc. AND 2) Talk to your child’s “team” and see what they think (Your child’s team could be made up of a variety of people including: parents, grandparents, nannies, aunts/uncles, teachers, speech therapist, occupational therapist, ABA therapist, RDI consultant and more.
~Amanda & Laura