Tag Archives: tv

Can TV be a positive influence on your children? (Article)

For parents, it can often seem like their children are being lost to the tempting clutches of a technological world. Instead of playing outside in the fresh air or creating adventures in tree houses, many children now invest their imaginations in the flashing of television screens and video games. A large percentage of children in the U.S. spend over three hours every day watching the TV–an alarming statistic with potentially severe consequences if we fail to check this trend.

Research has confirmed that TV messages are not always benign and have the potential to alter a child’s maturation, foster aggression, or even impair attention spans. Parents know they need to limit the amount and type of TV their children watch,  but placing limits is always easier said than done. Cutting television consumption down to less than an hour a day, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, is hard. Parents have increasingly packed schedules and often little time to monitor their children’s television viewing habits. TV provides endless entertainment, and I have found that many parents have so much anxiety about allowing their children to have unstructured time outside that they prefer to let their children watch TV in the safety of their living room.

An article in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics posed the following question about TV viewing and children: would replacing the programming that includes violence with educational and positive message programming alter reduce TV’s effect on children? In their study, researchers informed families about the dangers of violent television shows and introduced them to programs that promoted positive societal ideals. The focus was no longer on how long TV was watched, but on what was being watched. The study found that when parents sat down with their children to explain and moderate educational television content, the children who watched these pro-social programs became less aggressive and interacted with peers in a more appropriate manner. So, instead of battling with your child about switching the television off, just flip the channel to a healthy, educational show and watch it together. Unsupervised, unstructured viewing is what parents want to avoid. Both you and your child will be satisfied, and such a little change may increase your child’s curiosity about the world. Watching quality TV will not be a substitute for the great outdoors, unstructured play, physical activity, and your attention, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Smo Notes:



Written collaboratively by Keri Register and Dr. Paul Smolen

Screen Time: The first 2 years (Pedcast)

Today’s podcast is full of practical, relevant information about the effect of screens on very young children. Listeners will find out what the “experts” in child development are learning about the effects of TV and other screens on children less than 2 years of age. Get in on the discussion and listen. You will be glad you did.


DocSmo here, your pedcast host. Thanks for joining me today for another installment of DocSmo.com bringing you relevant parenting information that will help parents from preschool to grad school.

Get ready for a lively discussion of a topic that, until recently, I knew very little about.

Today, I am going to bring you some new research with regards to screen time in children less than 2 years old.

I am going to talk about information that was presented at the October AAP meeting

Based on this research, things looking bad for educational videos but things are looking pretty good for traditional play.

You will see from today’s discussion that experts feel that screen time actually may interfere with parents talking to their children which has the effect of reducing a child’s language stimulation, creative play time, and problem solving abilities.

The conclusions of recent research really make sense;. Children learn best when they have the direct, one on one guidance by a caring adult, especially their parents

Lets explore this a little in today’s podcast.


I encourage you to read the specifics of the AAP statement which I have linked on my site in what I call  Smo notes.  It is really very interesting and I think it may change some of your basic, core concepts about parenting.  It did mine.

I will attempt to summarize the conclusions for you now:

Children, less that 2 years of age do not have good enough language ability to understand much of the content presented by a screen and therefore do not learn language as well from a screen as they do from an parent.

In fact, time they spend watching videos or TV under 2 years of age lessens their time talking to an adult or older child and actually SLOWS their language learning!

Background TV is also harmful as it distracts a parent from talking to their children.  A fact that is born out by recent research.

Infant and toddler programming may be entertaining, but should not be marketed as educational because there is no evidence that it is.

And finally, parents who allow TV in their child’s bedroom may be adversely affecting their child’s quality of sleep not to mention allowing too much screen time.


OK, so that’s what the experts say but let’s talk about the real world.  Easy access to TV and other screens is a fact of our daily lives.  We need to learn to live with them.

I don’t know about you but almost every time I read a new AAP set of recommendations, I begin to feel guilty about the was my wife and I treated our children.  I agree with the AAP that traditional play is better for very young children than watching a screen but I am skeptical about the background exposure argument.

Think about it, you could make the same arguments about radio, books, newspapers, or even having guests at your house. Lots of things interfere with a parent talking to their children.  Should we ban these as well? I think most of us would say not and I suspect that most pediatricians have not followed all the academy recommendations when their children were under 2 years of age.



I think we should think of these new recommendations as goals and not absolutes rules, for instance:

Parents should try and maximize language stimulation to their children. Talk to them and reinforce their language, especially in toddlers.  It is easy to forget that they are learning a new language.

Read to your children whenever you can.

Don’t use the TV as a babysitter.

Try not to have meals in front of a TV,  it is distracting to everyone and inhibits conversation.

Creative toys or real world objects that they can play with and manipulate are much better than educational videos, especially for children under 18 months.

Whenever possible, get down on the floor and play with your children. They learn from imitation and your presence makes exploration fun.

If possible, supervise your children’s TV viewing explaining, teaching, and reinforcing your values as they relate to the show.

And finally, here is an absolute in my mind: do not allow your children to have a TVs or video games in their bedrooms.  Their sleep quality may be harmed and with the screen in their control, enforcing limits on screen time becomes virtually impossible.


Children must be good learners and language is essential to that learning. For a moment, imagine you were dropped off in a country where you spoke none of the language and you needed to learn to communicate as fast as possible.  Which do you think would be the easiest and fastest way to learn the new language;  by being dropped off in a movie theater and watching many, many hours of film or by having a private tutor teach you the language by showing you things, one word at a time?

-The answer is obvious…. The tutor.

-I think this is a good analogy to what young children are up against making sense of their world and is in keeping with the new research.

I hope you found that discussion useful.

My goal is to always bring you practical and relevant information that you can USE.

If you found this information useful, explore the DocSmo library for other topics.

I post a pedcast weekly as well as other content such as short essays and my lunchtime interviews with my partners which I call the lunchroom lowdown.

To get the latest content right away, make sure to subscribe on itunes, like DocSmo on face book or follow me on twitter.

While your at it, tell a friend who might also enjoy learning new things about pediatrics and children.

This is Dr. Paul Smolen, hoping you are able to begin to wean, your young children from the screen


Until next time




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Screen Time, How Much is Too Much? (Pedcast)

Practical advice on how to limit screen time without being the screen police!

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