How Much TV for Toddlers?

I was recently reading an article in Canadian Living about ‘The benefits of family meal’s as I’m a big believer in the importance of this.

One of the points in the article was about the negative effects of eating dinner in front of the TV. Along with that they provided some statistics that really surprised me:

• At age one, children watch an average of 2.2 hours daily. At age three it rises to an average of 3.6 hours daily. That’s an increase of 63 per cent.
• 43 per cent of children under the age of two watch TV every day and 26 per cent have TVs in their bedroom.
• The average Canadian child watches 15.5 hours of TV each week and spends an additional five hours per week playing video games and surfing the Internet.
• By high school graduation, the average teen will have spent more time watching television than in the classroom, according to the Canadian Pediatric Society.

Is it just me, or does that seem like too much television?

Okay, so maybe I’m at the other extreme and more of a TV Nazi with my kids but that still seems like a lot, especially for the kids under three.

When Keyan was one, the only time I let him watch the tube was when I needed to cut his nails, because that’s the only way he would sit still and that was about once a week. Or if he was hysterically upset and I couldn’t get him to calm down, pictures and music of animals on the big screen seemed to do the trick.

After Kyah came along and I was often alone putting two kids to bed at night, so I would let Keyan watch a half hour pre-recorded program while I put Kyah to bed. During the day, I would also let him play toddler games on the computer for about 20 minutes, while I nursed and put Kyah down for her morning nap.

Now that Keyan is 4, I usually let him watch about half an hour to 45 minutes of his favorite (pre-recorded) shows 4 times a week and let him play on the computer for half an hour twice a week. A couple of days a week when I need to shower and wash my hair, I’ll let Keyan and Kyah watch half and hour to 45 minutes of kids stuff on YouTube. So that’s about 5-6 hours a week, if my calculations are correct. Of course that doesn’t include what happens when they visit grandparents, but that’s a whole different post.

And I will admit, that with Kyah, I was a little more lenient with the television watching, just because it seemed to happen with the second child.

After reading the article, I decided to re-research the positive and negative effects of young kids watching TV, because maybe I was being to strict?

Here’s what I found:

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids older than two should watch no more than two hours of TV a day. And kids under two shouldn’t watch any television because studies show it hampers brain development. (Oops, but the kids seem okay.) lists these as the negatives and positives:

Negative Effects

Television viewing is a major contributor to childhood obesity, which is rapidly rising in America and internationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Obesity can put your child at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and high-blood pressure later in life. Television negatively affects your child in other ways, too. It can affect his academic performance. It diverts your kid from activities such as playing and connecting with family and friends. Moreover, the University of Washington says that watching violence on TV can cause anxiety and depression.


Positive Effects

Although TV’s bad effects get a lot of attention, it can still be beneficial for your child–with your guidance. Television can take your child on a virtual tour of the world, expose her to different cultures and teach her positive behaviors, which is often a cornerstone of shows with messages such as sharing, cooperation and sympathy, according to the University of Michigan Health System. Several children’s shows such as “Reading Rainbow” and “Sesame Street” also teach kids about reading, mathematics and languages they don’t speak.
The article goes on to say that you should keep the TV off during meal and study times, which makes sense. It also says you should try watching the programs with your children and discuss the show with them after. I would love to do that, but if I’m honest, the reason I let them watch a show in the first place is because I need them occupied so I can get something else done.

So what do you think? Do you have a system to how the TV/computer are utilized in your home by the kids? What do you think works best? Or is all of this just being to protective and controlling of our kids? I’d love to hear what you think.

15 thoughts on “How Much TV for Toddlers?

  1. I try to limit my toddlers TV to an hour total a day (basically one half hour show in the morning and one in the afternoon.) honestly, some days he does end up getting more if I’m having a rough day with the baby or if he doesn’t nap. But I am def. conscience of it!

  2. We aren’t really the best at limiting TV and electronics at our house (partially because my kids have grown up with two parents at home that work on the computer all day). However, we have times when TV is absolutely not allowed; while getting ready for school, during meals,homework time, and 1/2 before bed. Another way we are trying to curb TV watching is staring a family game night, so we’ve managed to remove TV on Tuesday evenings…baby steps I guess!

    Pink Chai Style

    1. It has to be what works in each household and I’m sure it must be different with older children. Plus, I think those are all really great rules! And I’m really looking forward to when my kids are old enough for family game night.

  3. We have no cable and the kids can only watch a show a day, 30 min for the 2 yr old, 1hr for the 7 yr old. I guess that makes it 7 hrs a day. We have XBOX and we sometimes play together but I guess it’s a challenge when I am not at home I work on the computer and I honestly have to set limits because that is what I am passing on.

  4. We recently cancled our cable- we still get three basic channels(for my news fix) and have Netflix- what I love about Netflix is no commercials- my biggest pet peeve is marketing towards kids! That siad our kiddos get about an hour a day in the evening when I am making dinner- which we all try to sit and eat as a family as many nights a week as possible! Weirdly enough ( and it is weird for me because I am a total luddite) is that I have embraced our kid’s use of technology- they each get twenty minutes of ipad time as well as video game time with daddy on the weekend- I’m loving how excited they get over age appropriate games as well as how quickly they have picked the games up!

  5. We had read similar articles to the ones you quoted and tried to restrict our first’s tv. Once he was two, we started allowing him to watch 1/2 hr as part of his pre-bedtime routine. But the challenge is definitely there for the second. How do you let one watch and not the other (ours are only 21 m apart and go to bed at the same time)? So far the little one is only 8m so she’s not interested but I am sure that will change. I’m actually also sure it will only get harder to navigate all this as they get older:)

    1. That’s definitely a challenge for me as well with our little one. I do know that she did watch more tv before she was two years old than my first born did but it was still limited. But it’s a lot harder with two around.

  6. i dont really let Max watch tv but breakfast television is always on first thing in the morning over here …what i am guilty of is letting max watch elmo youtbue videos or play with elmo apps so i can get stuff done like cooking! now he brings the ipad to me and says “elmo elmo” hahaha! terrible! on the flip side, he learned about elmo from elmo books so he’s somewhat content to go to bed after filtering through his stash.

  7. Great post Salma! I am surprised how many people don’t know about the no tv before 2 thing! Not their fault, there just doesn’t seem to be much education on it. I only knew because I went looking for the info. I am learning as keepingthemeinmommy the it is going to be very hard to keep our second away from TV like our first, she almost does a back bend to see our two year old watching!

    1. It is surprising that many people don’t know about it. Plus, TV is an easy way to keep the kids occupied when something else really needs to be done. I know I’m guilty of that too!

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