TV Time in the Home
"We can't agree on TV time."
Debra and Bryan Baca Parents of Maggie, 4, and Carter, 2 Phoenix, AZ
"When I was growing up, my family didn't own a TV. I felt deprived, but today I think I'm a better person for it. Now that I'm a mom, I see a huge difference between how my husband, Bryan, and I view TV. Bryan and Maggie wake up earlier than Carter and I do, and Bryan puts her in front of the TV so he can read the news on his iPad, have breakfast, shower, and get dressed for work without being bothered. The TV stays on until I get up a couple of hours later and take over for the day, and when I turn it off the whining begins; Maggie always wants 'just one more' show. While I let my kids occasionally watch TV when they're sick, my ideal would be no TV, because I don't believe it's good for their development. It upsets me that our daughter identified with Elmo and her other TV 'friends' before she was 2."
"Every morning I watch Maggie from when she gets up, sometimes as early as 5 a.m., until I leave for work at 7:30. The TV keeps her occupied so she won't wake up Debra and Carter, but unfortunately, Maggie now expects it every morning and whines to Debra for more. I'd like to limit Maggie's TV time too, but I can't seem to give up our morning routine."
Chip Donohue, Ph.D., director of the Erikson Institute's Technology in Early Childhood Center in Chicago
Dr. Donohue Says
"Debra and Bryan are raising valid concerns about healthy use of media and the impact of screen viewing on kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children over 2 watch no more than two hours of screen time a day (even quality programming). The first goal is to be aware of how much screen time Maggie has and manage it carefully. The second is to keep media experiences interactive: Bryan can ask Maggie questions about what she's watching. Debra and Bryan could also find other activities to engage Maggie, like drawing or playing with toys."
Finding something other than television to keep Maggie occupied was the most helpful piece of advice, agree Debra and Bryan. When Maggie gets up, Bryan now gives her a "project box" with paper, crayons, safety scissors, glue sticks, cotton balls, and pipe cleaners, which keeps her happy at the kitchen table while Bryan gets ready for work. "Now she hardly ever asks to watch TV in the morning, and she's even sleeping in later," says Debra. TV is a special treat now -- Maggie watches a show one night a week while Debra attends a yoga class and Bryan puts Carter to bed. Maggie also gets TV a few times a week when she goes to child care at Debra's gym. Says Debra: "I can't keep her from TV altogether, but Bryan and I are both more comfortable with the amount she's watching."