Screen Time

Screen Time Effects on Early Childhood Development

Professional Recommendations

In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirmed an earlier recommendation about screen time for kids under age 2. According to the AAP, parents should discourage TV and other sources of screen time for children younger than age 2. For kids older than 2, the AAP recommends no more than two hours of quality screen time each day. What’s “quality?” The AAP defines quality as “informational, educational and nonviolent.”

Brain Development

During early childhood -- infancy and toddlerhood especially -- the brain undergoes a continual process of neuron connections, according to a publication by the Early Development Network. As these connections form, environmental exposures can have a significant effect on the number of connections and the quality of the connections in the brain. As the brain is developing, too much screen time might actually slow development and learning, according to the City of Mountain View website. Kids learn fewer words and score lower on skill tests with exposure to screens.

Attention Problems

In 2004, a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics reached conclusions about common outcomes for kids who watched daily TV at ages 1 and 3. Kids in the study watched an average of 2.2 hours of TV at age 1 and 3.6 hours of TV at age 3. The study associated this amount of screen time with attentional problems by the time these children reached age 7. Kids might have problems with concentration, restlessness and impulsive behavior. And don’t discount the time you’ve got the TV going in the background, either. According to the National Research Center for Women & Families, any time the TV is on in the room a child probably isn’t playing with the same concentration and intensity as the child would play if a television wasn't on.

Effects of Watching Violence

Children who view violent media on TV screens and in video games often have academic and behavioral problems. Up until about age 5, kids have a difficult time separating fantasy from reality. The images on a screen are real to these preschoolers, according to a University of New Hampshire publication. Kids who see violent media might also exhibit aggression, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Kids often mimic what they see, so if kids are watching violence, they often carry out imitations in both play and in how they resolve differences with others.

The Influence & Effects of TV on Young People

Violence

Leonard Eron, senior research scientist at the University of Michigan, said television is responsible for 10 percent of youth violence. Youth who watch extensive amounts of violence on television are more likely to display aggressive behavior. Violent scenes on television are often unrealistic and provide little to no consequences; children are likely to become desensitized to violence because they see no punishment for actions. Youth may also imitate violent acts they see on television. The University of Michigan Health System notes that an average American child will see 200,000 violent acts and 16,000 murders on TV by age 18. Though television violence is not the only reason youth act out in violent behavior, it's a significant contributor.

Health

Television has an impact on health and development of youth. Time spent viewing television programs takes away from physical activity. A contributor to childhood obesity is the sedentary lifestyle of those who watch excessive amounts of TV. Children who don't engage in sports, playing outdoors and exploring nature are more likely to take these habits into their adulthood. Media Awareness Network states that television ads encourage youth to buy fast food or junk food. Marketing on television is often geared toward youth. Commercials that market healthy food products only account for four percent of all advertisements.

Brain Development

Television influences brain development of children from infancy to youth. The University of Michigan Health System says TV viewing before age three affects children's cognitive development. Likewise, TV may discourage youth from reading; they're more willing to be entertained by a television program. Reading requires more thinking for brain development. Educational reading also helps build knowledge on different subject matters. Youth who watch excessive TV are more likely to have trouble reading.

Sexual Behavior

The sexual content in television programming and commercials has a great impact on youth. Television can be a tool for educating youth about sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy. However, it can also stimulate interest in sexual activity at an early age. The Media Awareness Network states that three out of four prime time shows contain sexual references. In shows that portray teen sex situations, only 17 percent included a message about responsible sex. Parents-tv.org states that 62 percent of youth say that sex on TV influences them to have sex when they're too young.

How to Childproof a TV

Place your TV on an A/V-certified TV stand rather than a dresser, table or cabinet. These stands are specifically designed for TVs and offer stability that other furniture items may not offer. Choose a stand without drawers, which children can pull out and climb on. Additionally, push the TV as far back on the stand as possible.

Situate the TV directly on the stand rather than on pads or a cloth, sometimes used to protect a stand from scratches. These pads or cloths will make it easier for the TV to slide off of a stand.

Anchor the TV to a wall or stand. If the stand is light-weight, it’s best to anchor the TV to the wall. Inexpensive anchoring devices are sold at most hardware and home-improvement stores. Most TVs are equipped with holes for anchoring brackets. Follow the instructions on the anchoring device kit as instructions vary among manufacturers.

Hang flat-panel TVs on a wall with sturdy mounting brackets. TVs hanging on a wall pose risks to children, as well. If the TV is not hung properly, it could fall off the wall with a little tug by a child. Check the mounting brackets you’re using to ensure they are heavy enough to support the weight and size of your TV. This information will be located on the bracket’s packaging. Follow the instructions for using the mounting brackets, or if you’re not confident in your ability to mount the TV to the wall properly, hire a professional to do the job.

Secure all cables and wires from the TV so that a child cannot trip or pull on them. Tie the cables and wires with cable ties, then tuck them inside a wire guard to hide them. A wire guard is a hollow tub that can be attached to the wall or baseboards and is used to keep wires hidden.

Things You Will Need

  • A/V Certified television stand without drawers or handles
  • Anchoring device
  • Mounting brackets for wall-hanging televisions
  • Cable ties
  • Wire guard

Tip

Do not place remote controls, toys or other items on the TV stand. These items may entice children to go near the TV , which can lead to injury if it's not properly secured.