Background TV could burden kids’ brains

By Shayna Brouker • Published: July 30th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Summer’s here, which means kids should be shooed away from the television and outside for as much outdoor playtime as possible before the sun goes down. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that older children watch no more than one to two hours of T-V per day, and discourages any T-V time for children under two. Now, new research lends even more support to the turn-off-the-T-V-and -play-outside party.

Children in the United States watch almost four hours of T-V a day on average, and a new study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication in Philadelphia found using T-V as a background babysitter is linked with learning and reading problems among younger kids. Whether it’s entertaining them during playtime in the living room or serving as a stand-in bedtime story to get them to sleep, background T-V interrupts mental tasks and has been linked to problems with learning, reading and language development among young children.

And the study of more than 1,000 households found that children who got the least amount of T-V time were those who did not have one in their room. It’s an easy economical option for keeping kids entertained, but some quality time with a book or puzzle can go a long way to strengthen smarts.

Breaking a bad habit can be a struggle, but pediatricians offer some tips to turning off the T-V and tuning in to constructive play. First, ban it from the bedroom. Cover the set when not in use so it’s out of sight, out of mind. You don’t have to go cold turkey and drastically cut down T-V time if your child is used to it — gradually scale back week by week. Let you kids schedule their own T-V time, like an hour before dinner. Last, follow your own rules. Cut back your own screen time, set a positive example and do something productive. The family that plays together stays together!