Television watching


Watching television is an experience shared by the vast majority of children and adults. It is convenient, inexpensive, available and attractive. Television can be enormously entertaining for children and can teach them some things, but too frequently it is used as a substitute for other activities.

Studies indicate that many children watch television to a much greater extent than the current American Academy of Pediatrics recommends (no TV for children under 2, less than 2 hours per day for older children).

Some problems with excessive television viewing include the following:

  • Television often substitutes for physical exercise, which is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and is crucial to physical development.  
  • Watching TV may take the place of social interaction with friends and family, depriving children of sharing ideas and feelings with others, and preventing parents from learning more about their kids.  
  • TV may take the place of reading in a child’s day, which may contribute to poor school performance and delay literacy.  
  • It is possible that exposure to violence on television may upset children or may lead to more aggressive behavior. However, a causal relationship between viewing violence on television and becoming violent in the absence of previous violent behavior has not been found.

Below are some strategies for establishing appropriate television viewing by your children:

  • Encourage alternative activities, especially physical activity.  
  • Turn the television off during mealtimes, homework time, and other times of day during which social interaction and learning are going on.  
  • Read to - and with - your children.  
  • Set limits on television time, especially on school nights. Allow children to select the shows that they really want to watch - this will encourage them to put thought into their viewing habits.  
  • By watching television with your kids, you may help them understand what they’re seeing, resist commercial messages, and feel comfortable discussing issues with you.  
  • Set a good example by limiting your own viewing.  
  • Get more information about TV and kids - the American Academy of Pediatrics website is a good place to start.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Mamikon Bozoyan, M.D.

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