Five Good Reasons to Limit Children TV and Computer Time

Aidan develops music production skills

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the dangers of TV and computers for our children’s health.  I was  aware of the fact that “TV is not good for you” or that sitting for too long in front of a computer screen is really unhealthy, but I didn’t really stop and wonder why exactly was that so. Sadly, in the past year, there have been days when I let my 21-month-old son watch short videos on youtube with Winnie the Pooh, or videos of himself filmed the previous days. Sometimes for 5 minutes, sometimes for 15-20.

While at home in Romania, watching short videos on either the laptop, or my smart phone shortly became like a daily ritual that I dreaded, but could not end. It got to the point where I literally had to hide in order to answer my mobile or text a friend if I wanted to escape all hell breaking loose. The constant buzz of the TV in the background (my dad is addicted to the damn thing!) helped fuel my son’s obsession with the media. Sometimes I could tame his screams by distracting his attention. But it didn’t always work. Each time I failed, I felt a pang of guilt for giving into his hysteria and feeding his addiction.

One of the reasons for his obsession with the screens was the lack of educational toys we had left in London, and his inability to being “creatively messy”.  In our home, he’s more involved in fun activities such as hand painting and wall-scribbling. The  “cave drawings” were a definite no-go at the grandparents’ place.

We seldom watch TV in our home in London. In fact we went without owning a TV set for about 4 years. I am so happy that since coming back at the end of June, Aidan’s time in front of the laptop has become literally non-existent. These days he’s too busy having fun exploring and rediscovering his territory to watch videos. And I marvel at being able to answer my mobile every time it rings. Sometimes I wave it before his eyes and the boy doesn’t even flinch. There goes to show how important a child’s environment is when it comes to the habits he develops.

So, here are a few good reasons why, when the time comes (as late as humanly possible without us turning into proper dictators), well be very strict about Aidan’s time in front of the TV or the computer.

1. TV/computers increase the risk of developing aggressive behaviour.  A 3-year-old who watches on average 2 hours of television per day is prone to juvenile delinquency, violence and criminal behaviour later in his teens and adulthood. This is why the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that kids  2 years old and younger should not be exposed to any sort of screen media. (that’s a bit too late for us, but hopefully we haven’t caused any irreparable damages).

2. Pre-teen children toddlers exposed to television and computers have a higher risk of developing psychological problems. According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, the risk stays the same even if those children also participate in physical activities.

3. Toddlers who watch television are significantly more likely to have poor health and poor educational performance by age 10.

3. Constant media screen exposure is also linked to  ADHD and “inner speech” interference. The pace of TV is greatly sped up and is totally unnatural to the way young children see and experience real life. Exposing a baby’s developing brain to videos may overstimulate it, causing permanent changes in developing neural pathways. For every hour watched at age one and age three, there is almost a ten percent higher chance of developing attention problems that could be diagnosed as ADHD by age 7. A toddler watching three hours of infant television daily has nearly a 30% higher chance of having attention problems in school. These numbers are scary!!!

And if you think it’s ok to have the TV on when the kids seem busy doing other stuff around the house, scientists come to tell’you the contrary. Unfortunately, even having the television on in the background can disrupt toddlers as they play with toys, causing them to lose focus during play.

5. TV and computers delay language development and impede creative play. The more time young children spend in front of computers and TV, the less time they have to dedicate to roaming, exploring and making up games.

Sadly, for many of today’s children, outdoor games like hopscotch or hide and sick that kept us out until the dusk, seem outdated at best.  And while some parents may use these modern entertainment tools to keep their children away from the dangers of the outside world, do they really keep them safe?

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3 Discussion to this post

  1. […] recently written a post on my other blog about the dangers of exposing young children to too much TV and computer time from an early age. I […]

  2. Serge says:

    Reading a book is not the same as watching the movie made after the book. Whilst books and story delivery methods that require full attention and imagination (eg. you cannot read a story and also write sms texts at the same time) TV isn’t. Because the TV experience is a visual one first and foremost, and not imaginative, the watchers can jump in and out of the story at any point and not “seemingly” miss anything from it. And we should always remember that “creativity” and “intelligence” is surely not defined through the ability to complete puzzles, shapes etc. It is also, and most important for kids to learn about interacting with other kids in interactive play, and learn to appreciate others have feelings just like they do and so on. Emotional intelligence is also very, if not more important than regular intelligence. That…I don’t see how you can get it from the TV
    I know also that for some, watching more TV as they mature seems like a result of the parental control from childhood. But it isn’t. When I was a kid, I remember me and my brother had to literally beg our parents every day for few years to get us cable TV. Every other kid in the neighborhood had it, we didn’t. We probably got cable installed between the last one in the whole city!! :))) The reality is that television is a hypnotizing medium, offering an immerse, multi-sensorial (although empty) experience. And the more you watch it, the more you’ll want to keep watching. That’s the danger I see with kids watching too much TV: the more they watch it, the more they’ll want to watch TV and not do other things, like go out and play with other kids. You know, if you look at the trees here in London in the summer, the fruits rotten in the trees because there’s no one there to pick it up! When I was a kid, we jumped over fences, climbed trees and sometimes got chased around while trying to get our belies full of fruits from the trees. Man, it was AWESOME! I even broke my hand once falling from a tree. But it was all good, as soon as I got better I got back on the trees with the rest of the pack. Those moments, for me, mean more than any movie I’ve ever seen or I am yet to see. Although I do appreciate a movie every now and then, TV doesn’t even come close to getting out of the house and just being in nature 😉

  3. Maria says:

    I have nothing else to add. This is how I feel about TV and hopefully, we will be able to infuse the same ideas into Aidan’s thinking. I strongly believe that he’s got a great deal to learn from the world around him. And that does not have to include the TV from an early age.

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