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How much television should my toddler be watching

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Children’s television has come a long way since most of us were kids.  In our day we only had an hour in the morning and a couple of hours after school to watch our own programmes.  Nowadays there are loads of channels aimed specifically at young children with shows running all day and night.  Obviously our kids aren’t watching television 24 hours a day but how much television should my toddler be watching?

How much, if at all?

Following a study of children in Michigan and Canada, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that children under two years old should not watch any television at all while older children’s viewing should be limited to between one and two hours per day.  Obviously it isn’t always possible (or desirable) to achieve this goal, especially if you have children of different ages all wanting to watch their favourite programme.  So why is too much television a negative thing and how do you limit the amount of television or DVDs your children watch?

Why is too much TV damaging?

For young toddlers too much screen time can interfere with things like playing, exploring and interacting with other people.  As this age is crucial for learning these skills too much television can have an impact on physical and social development.  Studies have shown that children who watch an excessive amount of TV are often more likely to become overweight.  Watching too much television can lead to poor attentions spans, which has an effect on school work and there is also the issue of kids copying negative behaviours they have seen on their favourite shows.

Keep the television turned off during mealtimes

Eating meals together at the table is a great habit to get into for a number of reasons.  It allows children to concentrate on what and how much they are eating as well as giving the family some set time to chat and catch up with each other.  Watching television while eating can easily become a habit and by not allowing it in the first place you won’t have to go through the difficulty of breaking it.

Watch with your child

Cuddling up on the sofa to do something together is always nice and doing so while watching a television programme is no different.  As well as the opportunity to snuggle, it gives you the chance to talk about the programme with each other.  Ask your toddler questions about the show and find out what she is getting from it.

Be selective

Rather than just sticking the TV on and watching whatever happens to be on, record a few programmes that you think your toddler will enjoy or learn from.  Steer clear of anything that might be violent or scary and opt instead for shows that encourage viewer involvement.  You can fast forward any adverts and the fact that the recording stops at the end of the show makes it easier to turn the TV off afterwards.

Switch the TV off when it isn’t in use

Many of us like to have the television on as background noise but this can give mixed messages to toddlers.toddler watching tv  If you’re not sitting down to watch a particular programme then turn the television off and put the radio or a playlist on instead.  This prevents children from stopping what they are doing to watch something that has caught their attention.  You can also lead by example by not watching too much television yourself during the day.

Suggest fun alternatives

If your television is in the living room then make sure there are also plenty of games, toys and books in there too.  These will offer a pleasing distraction when the TV is turned off and often even tempt children away from programmes off their own back.  If you’ve just finished watching a show suggest an activity to build on what your toddler has been watching.  For example, if you’ve been viewing a programme about seasons in autumn get outside and collect some leaves to do rubbings with when you get home.

Television does have its place and there is a lot to be gained from educational and entertaining programmes.  However, watching something on the box is no substitute for going out and experiencing it first hand.  The trick is to find a happy balance between the two.

 

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About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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