Picture this: It’s a sunny Saturday morning and you hear your kids watching TV in the next room.
As you go in to check on them, the TV catches your eye. You know the show is for children, but you also know that some shows for kids and teens are pretty dang good—so you grab a seat on the couch. Before you know it, you and your kids have watched six episodes and the morning has faded into afternoon.
You don’t want to admit it, but you think you’ve watched too much TV.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone! In fact, Encyclopedia Britannica reports that over 70% of Americans admit to regularly binge-watching their favorite TV shows.
As with smartphones and tablets, letting your kids watch TV has some benefits—but there are also some negative effects of watching too much TV. So let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of watching TV for children.
Advantages of Watching TV for Children
Here at Troomi, we believe that technology can be a pretty amazing tool for helping kids unlock their full potential. When used in moderation, TV can be one such device. Let’s take a look at a few ways watching TV can benefit your child.
- Television is educational. Not all TV shows are made with entertainment in mind; some are meant to educate. Kids can learn a lot from watching educational television. Turning on a show like Sesame Street is a great way to familiarize children with basic concepts like the alphabet, while wildlife documentaries like Planet Earth can introduce kids to the wonders of the natural world.
- Television can help kids develop social skills. It’s no secret that many kids learn best by observation. Watching TV can help kids gain a greater awareness of social norms and standards that they can then imitate and use in their own social interactions. This is especially beneficial for kids that have a harder time picking up on social cues.
- Television can build community. This one’s a bit surprising, but watching TV can actually help kids make friends. When I was younger, I forged connections with some of my best friends by playing games based on our favorite TV shows during recess. This goes for adults, too: how many times have you bonded with someone by discussing your favorite TV show?
- Watching TV can help kids de-stress. When used sparingly, a feel-good TV show like Bluey can help kids relax and de-stress after a particularly difficult day.
- Watching TV can be great family bonding time. Growing up, my family loved popping some popcorn and gathering around the TV to watch our favorite shows. Spending time with your kids watching TV can be a great way to bond.
Disadvantages of Watching TV for Children
As you can see, there are some definite benefits to letting your children watch the occasional TV show. As with all devices, however, television has some drawbacks. Let’s take a look at some of the negative effects of watching TV for children.
- TV can be addicting. As a parent in the twenty-first century, you’ve no doubt heard about tech addiction. As with most screen-based activities, watching TV can be pretty addictive—especially for younger eyes. If your child is showing signs of screen addiction, have a conversation with them and develop a plan to help them work through it.
- Artificial light from the TV negatively affects sleep. Just like phones and tablets, the television emits artificial blue light that can affect your child’s circadian rhythm and, ultimately, their sleep schedule. It’s no surprise that watching TV before bed can lead to kids experiencing difficulty drifting off into slumber.
- Some TV shows may not be appropriate. While there are many television shows created with children in mind, there are just as many (if not more) TV shows for adults. Your child could stumble upon one of these shows as they channel surf and get exposed to themes that they aren’t quite ready to handle.
- Television can take time away from more productive activities. Watching one episode of TV only takes about 30 minutes, but it’s easy for kids (and adults, speaking from experience) to fall into the trap of binge-watching. This is time that your child could be spending on more productive tasks, like practicing hobbies or being with family.
- TV can be isolating. While watching TV together as a family can be a great way to bond, letting your child stare at the screen by themselves for too long can be pretty lonesome. If your kiddo is going to spend some time on the TV, encourage them to find a show they can watch with a sibling or parent!
How Much TV Is Too Much TV?
As with all devices, there are some benefits and drawbacks to watching TV—it all comes down to how much time your child spends with their screen. So just how much TV is too much?
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, children ages two to five should spend no more than one hour on screens during the week.
For older kids, however, the AACAP doesn’t have a set limit. Instead, they encourage parents to come up with a schedule that works for their child. Teach them healthy screen habits and work together to determine a plan specific to your kiddo. After all, nobody knows them better than you do!
How Can Parents Help Kids Avoid Watching Too Much TV?
When your kids are watching too much TV, it can be difficult to help them break the habit. Here are a few ways you can help your kids avoid the ever present bait of binge-watching:
- Set a time limit—and enforce it! Have a conversation with your kids about the importance of limiting their TV intake. Work together to come up with a time limit that works for your family. For example, maybe they can watch one episode during the school week and three or four during the weekend!
- Watch TV with your kids. Not only is watching TV together a great way to bond as a family but it also lets you retain control of the remote. Once the show is over, turn the screen off and encourage your kids to spend some time exploring their hobbies or playing outside.
- Keep the TV in a public area. When kids have a TV in their room, it’s easier for them to watch for hours at a time. The benefits of keeping the TV in a public area are twofold: you can supervise what your child is watching and help keep them responsible for their viewing time.
- Teach your kids healthy tech habits. Spending time with screens is fun—but so is experiencing life! Help your kids understand that TV should come after more important tasks like homework, hobbies, and having fun with friends.
The world is getting increasingly digital—which means that healthy tech habits are more important than ever. That’s why we at Troomi are dedicated to helping your child learn how to responsibly own a smartphone. That means empowering and educational KidSmart® Apps, high-quality security, and the ability to add functionality as your kiddo grows and matures. Check it out here!
TV Has Nothing on the World Around Us
At its best, watching TV is educational, stress-relieving, and a great way to spend time with family and friends. There are some pretty nasty effects of watching too much TV, however. Television can be addicting, isolating, and harm your child’s sleep schedule.
While it’s okay for kids to watch TV in moderation, they shouldn’t spend too much time staring at the screen.
Instead of wasting hours on the couch, encourage your kids to turn on their brains and explore the world around them. Teach them a new skill, set up a playdate with a friend, or simply take a walk around the neighborhood together. Who knows what they might learn!