A good way to know if your child is suffering from too much TV is how often you hear them complain about being bored. It has been shown that too much TV exposure at a young age can hinder your child’s ability to entertain himself.
Especially on those hot summer days (we are supposed to be having!), it can be tempting to stay inside and watch TV. Research indicates the average family watches 30 hours of TV a week, which ends up being 1,560 hours a year. During all this screen time, 17,000 commercials are viewed, unless you skim over them with your DVR like I do! :) Commercials lure our kids to want unneeded toys and unhealthy snacks, which does not help us as parents at all!
There are obvious drawbacks to this much time in front of the TV as it entertains your child while he responds passively. This results in him learning to be entertained without learning how to do so himself. For the same reason, it is important to try to keep computer time limited as well. (Designate computer work time and computer play time and make sure there are frequent breaks from screen time.)
Television viewing habits have also been linked to problems with reading and general attention skills. It is important to be especially careful about screen time for children under the age of two, for which the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends absolutely no TV. That includes having it on in the background while they are playing.
I know it is not realistic to shelter your child from the TV all the time, but being cognizant about how much time he is exposed is important and is the first step toward setting healthy limits for your child and your family. If you have certain shows that you cannot miss, invest in a DVR and try to wait until your child is in bed for the night. I guarantee it will be much more enjoyable for you if you are not "half watching" while you are also trying to keep an eye on your child.
Turn off the TV to turn on creativity! When your child says there is nothing to do, respond with “What are you going to do about it?” Listen for his answer, and then if needed redirect his thinking toward writing, painting, building a fort, playing outdoors, drawing, making a craft, and other activities that are self-entertaining. You may need to do some of these activities with your child at first until he gets the hang of being more independent.
Jessica Martin, Ed.S., NCSP
RVA School Psychologist & Director of Special Education & Student Services