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How Much TV?

June 26, 2013

By Sarah Vander Schaaff

A few days ago, my youngest daughter woke up before six, came into my bedroom, took my iPad and selected a show to watch on Netflix. About twenty minutes later, when I rolled over to see what had entertained her so nicely and given me a chance to sleep just a bit longer, I noticed what she’d selected.

Yes, my five-year-old was watching “The Family Guy”.

And so we come to yet another question for our summer series: how much TV is ok to watch?

Another question might be, how can I limit what my five-year-old selects from our instant queue, but that’s probably a post for a different blog.

When it comes to watching TV or any screen, I am reminded of what I heard Princeton Professor Sam Wang, a neuroscientist and author of the book, Welcome to Your Child’s Brain, say in a lecture last fall.

There is an “opportunity cost” he said, to the use of such devices.

I like how Professor Wang frames the discussion because it asks the parent to think of what the child has traded in exchange for the time with the TV.

According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting a child’s use of TV, movies, video and computer games to no more than one or two hours a day.”

More than two hours a day of screen time contributes, they say, to childhood obesity, irregular sleep, behavior problems, desensitization to violence, impaired academic performance and less time for play.

So, while no more than “two hours a day” seems to be a cap, I keep in mind the concept of opportunity cost.

Is it a beautiful day, better spent running around a park?

Or is it pouring raining and you’ve just run out of cheese sticks?

The rules and limits regarding TV and screen time may not go away during the summer, but the trade-offs sometimes feel a lot more complicated.

Do you have a good system for keeping track of or limiting screen time during the summer? We’d like to hear from you.

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