It’s the question I’ve asked myself over and over again…with three children and as many televisions in the house, how could I not? Would television really rot my kids’ brains? How much was too much? I simply didn’t know. It took lots of reading, research, chats with other moms and dads, and even some information from my pediatrician before I realized that the question wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Before I could determine if my preschooler was watching too much TV, I had to answer a few other questions first.
How does your child watch television?
When they’re watching television, are they up and doing things, playing, and using the television as background noise? Or, are they tuned out and oblivious to everything except the tube? I’d rather my children used it for background noise than were totally engrossed by it, but you may feel differently. Examine how your child watches television-this may help you make a decision about whether or not it’s on too much.
How active is your child?
When the television is on, how active is your child? What about when it’s off? No one wants the words lazy or couch potato to apply to their child. Does your child go outside to play, pull out the blocks, or invite friends over to play? If your preschooler is relatively active, you might be able to alleviate concerns over too much TV.
Is your child meeting developmental milestones?
How is your child’s speech? Are their gross and fine motor skills age-appropriate? At your child’s last well-child visit to the pediatrician, were there any areas where your child was lagging behind? Did you or the pediatrician have concerns about your child’s development or growth? Though there may be no relationship between developmental delays and the amount of television your child watches, you still may want to cut back on your TV time if milestones aren’t being met.
Does your child snack while watching television?
I know that one of my children always feels the need to snack while the television is on-she’s come to associate television time with snack time. With concerns about obesity and helping our children live a healthy life, this isn’t an association I want my child to have. It might be time to work on breaking the snack/television habit by limiting screen time.
How does your preschooler react when the television is off?
This has been one of the most revealing questions to ask when considering the amount of television my kids watch. How does your child react when you say there’s no television right now, for the day, or until after lunch? How do they handle your decision to turn the TV off? What about when the television is already off-do they repeatedly ask to watch something? Are they able to play with toys, use their imaginations, or interact with their siblings or peers without the TV on?
In my experience, my children like watching TV, but for the most part, aren’t distraught by the news that we aren’t going to watch anything right now. In addition, they’re usually able to play with one another or with me. That’s a sure sign that they aren’t dependent on the television.
Parents worry-and the amount of screen time your preschooler gets is just one of those worries. Sit down and assess the situation before you make a final decision, and take the answers into consideration. There may be more to the picture than the amount of time the TV is on each day.
Read more content from this contributor:
Confessions of a Toddler Mom
Parenting No-Nos You Shouldn’t Lose Sleep Over
Honey Bee Tree & 6 Things Your Preschooler Can Learn by Playing