Limiting and Monitoring Television Time


Children in the United States watch an average of 25 hours of television per week – but what effect does television have on our children’s lives? There have been thousands of studies conducted on the affects of television on adolescents and each one can teach us more about how to best monitor, limit and utilize television in our own homes.

  • All TV is unhealthy for kids under two. While older children can actually benefit from small amounts of guided TV time, babies and small toddlers are only harmed by time in front of the tube. After reviewing extensive research, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that children under two years of age do not watch any television as it harms their language skills and their social development.


  • TV takes away from more meaningful activities. While some television watching is not outwardly harmful to children, it does take time away from healthier and more rewarding activities. The four hours of television that the average elementary school child watches each day could be filled with playing outdoors with friends, spending time with family, reading, or working on a hobby or interest. 


  • TV exposes children to violence. By the time a child graduates from high school, she will have witnessed 16,000 murders and 200,000 violent acts on television. She will also see characters making poor decisions, smoking, drinking, or using drugs. While guided TV viewing allows parents to explain these incidents to children, many children watch TV unmonitored by an adult.


  • Watching TV hurts long-term school performance. One study found that a child’s television habits could affect his school performance even decades after the fact. And on a day-to-day basis, television shortens attention spans and takes time away from reading and homework.


  • Television hurts kids’ health. Johns Hopkins University researchers found a strong link between childhood obesity and television viewing. The researchers believe that too much TV means less activity and more eating while viewing. In addition, the majority of television ads are for fast foods and snack foods.


Although many of these studies are negative, it is not a reason to throw away your flatscreen. While television is not recommended for babies and toddlers, limited amounts of television viewing for older children can be healthy and even educational. Watching appropriate television programs with your older children can help their understanding of the world and even improve their social skills, whereas unmonitored television could be equally as harmful. While hours of television can harm many aspects of a child’s development, limited and guided TV viewing can be enjoyable and educational.


Written by Elliott Shostak

Project Appleseed