While this is not a post about picky eating, excessive TV viewing can impact more than just children’s attention and activity patterns. Research has shown that TV viewing is highly linked with obesity, not only because it increases the amount of time children spend being inactive, but it also has been shown to influence children’s requests for unhealthy foods, and increase the amount of food children eat while viewing (mindless eating).
Parents today seem to struggle with finding a balance for their children between strict healthy habits and potentially negative influences like the television. The issue of how much television is TOO much is constantly debated among parents, especially those with infants and toddlers. As a parent, you probably want to make sure your child is getting enough positive influence from health and education and you want to be sure they are gaining the same enjoyable experiences as other children their age. Before comparing your decisions with other parents, you should first know some statistics for recent generations of children.
The Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization emphasizing health policies and research, found that about 2/3 of infants and toddlers watch the television for about 2 hours a day! This seems to be common for most children, as there are so many cartoon programs for children. Not only do the kids like watching TV, but also it gives parents an occasional break. Two hours of TV or any media influence may not sound like a lot, but the brain activity of a toddler is much quicker than an adult’s! Children can pick up a lot of information in just two hours. The first two years of a child’s life are crucial for acquiring knowledge and improving their social interactions with others and the world.
The more TV children watch at a young age, the faster they will create a habit of inactivity, which could also contribute to overeating and obesity. With all of the advancements in technology, children are practically forced into accepting the lifestyle of limited physical activity and bad habits. As it is, the recent generations of children aren’t expressing their activeness as often as necessary. Children spend much more time inside the house eating or playing video games than outside playing with their friends, running around, or riding their bikes.
On the other hand, not all television is a negative influence for your children.
In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that children under two years of age not have exposure to television or the media in order to promote healthy child development; however, the creation of “baby Einstein” slightly changed parent’s view on television. Baby Einstein is a Disney DVD program that incorporates education and fun into children’s DVD’s. This program has drastically grown over the last 10 years and has offered an alternative television option other than cartoons and commercials. For the selective time you allow your child to watch the television, try one of Baby Einstein’s programs:
Of course, the amount of television children watch lies completely in the hands of the parents. The idea is to find the best balance of television for your child and your family, considering the consequences of both decisions. Pay attention to your child’s exposure to television to ensure that they develop properly, with both physical and mental health. For health and well-being, always remember how important child play is!
written by Maria DiMucci