David Ludwig, MD, PhD
What parent hasn't used the television to occupy their child from time to time? After all, parents have a thousand demands placed on them. Television can keep your preschooler happily absorbed when it's time to get dinner started, sneak in a household chore, or just have a little alone time.
You probably also know, however, that it's important to limit preschoolers' tube time. How important? A 2010 study of 1,314 children showed that the more TV children watched between the ages of 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 years, the less likely they were to exercise at the age of 10. Watching more TV was also linked to a higher body mass index (BMI) -- a measure of weight in relation to height -- as well as lower grades and intake of more snacks and soft drinks.
Once television habits become entrenched, it's more difficult to drag kids away from TV. So the preschool years are a great time to start developing good TV habits in your child. Here are some ways to limit TV and provide better activities for your child.
Of course, your preschooler should spend most of his time playing, learning, and interacting with you and other people. But when you’re busy, try occupying his time with an alternative to TV:
Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics advise no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality TV a day for children 2 years old and older. These tips can help your child develop healthy TV habits.
Pagani, L. Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, May 2010; vol 164: pp 425-431.National Research Center: "Young Children and Screen Time."KidsHealth: "Healthy Habits for TV, Video Games, and the Internet," "How TV Affects Your Child."Donald Shifrin, MD, clinical professor of pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle; member, committee on communications, American Academy of Pediatrics.Paul Ballas, DO, child psychiatrist; medical director, Green Tree School Clinic, Philadelphia.Michael Brody, MD, chairman, media committee, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; professor, University of Maryland, College Park.Pediatrics, "Children, Adolescents, and Advertising," December 2006; vol 118: pp 2563-2569.Kelly, B. American Journal of Public Health, September 2010; vol 10: pp 1730-1736.
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