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TV Viewing Detrimental to Young Children

August 5, 2010

Question: The TV is on in our house most of the day, but our young toddlers don't watch it much of the time. Is this truly bad for them? Also, all we ever hear about are the negatives of young children watching TV. Aren't there any positives?

-- TV Lover

Answer: Shut your TV off. Hearing TV in the background results in shorter playtime, less talking and less listening to others talk for toddlers. You'll clearly see this if you observe them playing while the TV is on.

You really should follow the TV viewing guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Academy strongly recommends that children do not view TV until they are age 2. After that, the Academy suggests no more than two hours a day. These are sensible guidelines for parents to follow and really allow for a lot of TV viewing. You must understand that most of the day in early childhood needs to be devoted to active play to maximize intellectual development. Just think of all the other opportunities to experience the world that your toddlers are missing while watching TV.

There are other downsides to watching too much TV at a young age. Later on, some current research shows that you can expect many of them to have poorer achievement in math in school and to be less active physically. They are also likely to consume more junk food than those who have watched less TV.

Early TV watching has been completely demonized by most child-development experts. There actually are some positive benefits to preschoolers who watch programs with a strong educational content. Later on, these children might read more and get better grades. Unfortunately, most toddlers are definitely not watching primarily educational programs.

Summer Reading Activity: Your children need to become active readers. These are the readers who think about what they are reading as they read. They are the ones who truly understand what they have read. And being an active reader has the additional benefit of helping children remember what they have read, whether it is fiction or nonfiction.

You can introduce your young children to the active reading habit by stopping every few pages to ask them questions: What do you think will happen next? Why do you like or dislike a certain character? Where is this story taking place? This will get them to thinking about what you have read.

With your older children, ask them one of the following questions before a family reading session to give them a specific focus as they are reading:

1. Why do you think the major character acts in the way he or she does?

2. How are you like or unlike some of the characters in the story you are reading?

3. Can you describe in detail the setting or settings of what you read today?

4. Do you agree or disagree with what the author is saying?

5. How does this story compare to others that are similar?

6. What helped you predict what would happen later on in the story?

After your children have finished reading, ask them if the questions encouraged them to think more as they were reading.

Send questions and comments to Dear Teacher, c/o Mahoning Valley Parent, Box 395, Carmel, IN 46082-03295, or log on to, or e-mail



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