(NaturalNews) How much screen time should a preschooler have per day? None, one hour, two hours? Parents need to decide this for themselves. Is TV bad for babies and preschool kids? Is it educational? Many educators describe the artificial visual processing involved in watching a stream of electrons and insist that it interferes with normal development and learning in small children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming per day for preschoolers (Committee, 2001).
Studies have shown that television viewing is associated with learning problems and language delays in preschoolers (Tanimura, 2007). Television viewing promotes attention problems (Christakis, 2004) and interferes with academic performance (Strasburger, 1986). More than 1,000 studies have shown an association between exposure to violent television programming and aggressive or violent behaviors in children (Strasburger, 2002), including early exposure as preschoolers and later antisocial behavior (Christakis, 2007). It is estimated that the average child views 12,000 acts of violence every year. Most network broadcasted shows for children contain 20 violent acts per hour.
Given the association between television viewing and learning or behavior problems in children, a recent study of preschoolers provides some alarming statistics. A study of 8,950 children, published in the Journal of Pediatrics (Feb 2011) found that preschoolers on average are exposed to 4 hours of screen time per day. Children in home-based child care had the most screen time, averaging 5.5 hours per day. Children in parental care only were exposed to an average of 4.4 hours of screen time. Obviously, some of these children watched much more than 4 or 5 hours per day to produce these averages.
The majority of screen time for preschoolers occurred at home. However, screen time in home-based child care represented 33 percent of total weekday screen time compared to only 3 percent of total time for day care centers. The ratio of screen time on average was 1/2 hour at day care and 3 1/2 hours at home.
Since most screen time occurs at home, parents have the power to limit their children's screen time and potentially prevent some of these associated learning problems. A limit of 1 hour of screen time at home per day will reduce the average of most preschool children's TV exposure by as much as 75 percent. The type of programming that children watch is significant as well. Age appropriate programs are essential for preschoolers. This may be especially difficult to control if older siblings are watching TV. In that case parents need to be vigilant and instruct older children about viewing programs when their younger siblings are not present in the room. Encouraging alternative activities such as reading stories, using building materials or participating in other creative play is far preferable for developing learning skills than keeping kids in front of the TV.
Christakis DA, Ebel BE, Rivara FP and Zimmerman FJ. Television, video, and computer game usage in children under 11 years of age, Journal of Pediatrics 145 (2004), pp. 652-656.
Christakis DA and Zimmerman FZ, Violent television viewing during preschool is associated with antisocial behavior during school age, Pediatrics 120 (2007), pp. 993-999.
Committee on Public Education, Children, Adolescents, and Television, Pediatrics 107 (2001) 423-6.
Strasburger VC. Does television affect learning and school performance? Pediatrician 1986; 38:141-7.
Strasburger VC. Children, Adolescents, and the Media. SAGE Publications, 2002.
Tandon PS, Zhou C, Lozano P and Christakis DA Preschoolers' total daily screen time at home and by type of child care, The Journal of Pediatrics 158 (2), (2011) 297-300.
Tanimura M, Okuma K and Kyoshima K, Television viewing, reduced parental utterance, and delayed speech development in infants and young children, Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 161 (2007) 618-9.
About the author
Dr. Randall Neustaedter, OMD, has practiced and taught holistic medicine for more than thirty years in the San Francisco Bay area, specializing in child health care. He is a licensed acupuncturist and doctor of Chinese medicine, author of The Holistic Baby Guide, Child Health Guide and The Vaccine Guide. Visit his website, www.cure-guide.com, to register for a free newsletter with pediatric specialty articles and follow him on Facebook, username cureguide1 or Dr. Randall Neustaedter, OMD.