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Is TV Really So Bad for Kids?

Is TV Really So Bad for Kids?

Risks and Benefits

Even if you're conscientious about using the TV ratings system as a guide, keep in mind that news programs remain unrated, although they report on plenty of events -- from crime to natural disasters -- that can cause anxiety and fear in children.

"Many parents don't understand that the news is very powerful," says Cantor. "They need to think twice about having on the TV news when their children are around, even if the kids don't seem to be paying attention to it. A lot of parents think, 'This is educational, and kids need to know what's going on in the world.' But TV doesn't give the news in an age-appropriate fashion for kids."

"I tell parents to get a lot of their own news from newspapers, and then if they want, turn on the TV news briefly, after their child has gone to sleep," says Cantor.

When it comes to choosing the best programs for your child, an AAP policy statement issued in 2001 notes that by watching certain carefully selected shows, children can, in fact, learn positive social behaviors, including cooperation, sharing, and good manners. "Children in the over-3 age group can learn songs, learn to count, and increase their vocabulary if they already have a good language base," says Miriam Bar-on, professor of pediatrics at Chicago's Loyola University Health System and chair of the organization's committee on public education.

But, adds Bar-on, the AAP believes that parents should discourage children under the age of 2 from watching TV. According to AAP policy, "Research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interaction with parents and other significant caregivers for healthy brain growth and the development of appropriate social, emotional, and cognitive skills."

The AAP offers these TV-viewing guidelines for parents:

  • Set limits on your youngsters' television watching. Keep their use of TV, movies, videos, and computer games to no more than one to two hours a day.
  • Use a program guide and TV ratings to choose appropriate programs for your child.
  • Watch TV with your youngster whenever possible, and talk about what you've watched. For example, counteract the stereotypes of women and the elderly on TV by discussing their real-life roles in an accurate way.
  • Limit the commercials your child sees by having him or her watch public television (PBS). Explain to your youngster that TV commercials are designed to make people want products they may not need.

Reviewed on October 17, 2002

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