Are your children watching too much television?

Today, watching the telly means much more than just television shows. There are DVDs, streaming videos, video games and much more. Children are not only getting exposure through TV sets, but also through computers, smartphones, iPads, portable DVD players...the list goes on. Is all this screen time and TV bad for children?

Here are some considerations to help you make the best decisions for your children.

Is TV good for children?

There can be entertaining, and sometimes educational, content for children on the telly. However, too much of anything isn't good for you, and this certainly goes for TV. Here are some of the cautions you should remember when monitoring your children's TV habits.

It's a sedentary activity

Sitting in front of a screen for hours deprives your children of the active play and exercise that children need to grow strong and healthy.

It can discourage social sharing and imagination through creative play

It's increasingly clear that learning through creative play, especially with other children, is a cornerstone of childhood development. Watching shows, while entertaining, is passive, and doesn't engage your children to their full range.

Many elements of TV programming are not appropriate for children

Even with devices that offer parental controls, and growing offerings of online children's TV shows and dedicated TV channels for children, you can't screen and filter everything.

What TV shows are good for children?

Watch age-appropriate shows, in moderation, with your child. Try not to use the TV or computer as a babysitter for hours on end. This lets you see what she's watching, and gives you room to discuss them with her.

If your child is younger, be sure to laugh and get involved with what's happening on screen, even if the humour isn't at your level. This will help with bonding with your child and make the family moments more special.

Vision and children: can watching TV hurt children's eyes?

As with any screen time, excess can lead to eye strain and other problems, especially for young eyes that are still developing. Your children's brain continues to develop well into their twenties.

Some things to remember:

  • You and your children should rest your eyes for 15 minutes for every 2 hours of screen time.
  • Every few minutes, look away for a few seconds (this works well if you and your child are watching together and interacting with each other during the show).
  • Neither you nor your child should ever watch TV in total darkness.

If your child sits too close to the TV, it may be a sign that he needs glasses. Have your children's vision checked at regular intervals, and always talk to your optician about questions or concerns.

TV, like anything else, has its advantages and disadvantages. It can provide stimulating, educational content. It can be good family bonding time. But too much TV and screen time could keep your children from other healthy activities, expose them to content they're not ready for, or strain their eyes.

Remember, a little TV goes a long way!

Nothing in this article is to be construed as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the recommendations of a medical professional. For specific questions, please see your eye care practitioner.
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