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Protecting Your Child from TV
By Dr. Sally Robinson and Dr. Keith Bly

The Department of Education estimates that kids watch an average of five hours of television every day. Children that watch too much television spend less time playing, reading, interacting with others and are more likely to be overweight and aggressive. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under two should not watch any television, and children over two should be limited to two hours per day. Parents should also be aware of what their children are watching.

The age-group rating system, which is modeled after the movie rating system, is a great tool to help parents decide what their children should watch. It has been estimated that children see over 12,000 acts of violence on TV per year and children’s TV programming contains about 20 violent acts per hour.

Toddlers and preschoolers are not able to tell the difference between reality and fantasy that they see on television, and children that watch violent television shows have more anxiety, according to some studies. Children that regularly watch violent TV may develop aggressive behavior and attitudes, become desensitized to real world violence, or develop a fear of being victimized.

Television sets made after 2000 are equipped with a device called a “v-chip,” that allows parents to program televisions to block inappropriate programming. V-chips don’t block programs on television that aren’t rated, such as news, sports, and commercials, which often show acts of violence, so it is important to preview what your child watches and turn of the TV if the show is not suitable.

Parents should be responsible for what their children watch and several things that can be done to ensure that your child is not exposed to inappropriate shows are:
• Setting limits on the amount of television that children watch to one or two hours at the most.
• Hiding the remote. Flipping through channels encourages passive viewing and your child might switch the TV to an age-inappropriate show.
• Not letting your child have a television in his or her bedroom. Put the family television in a central area of your home.
• Watch the program with them so that you are there to monitor what they are watching. Avoid programming that has violent or sexual content and encourage children to watch shows with characters that show cooperation and caring.
• Make use of the ratings system and know what your children are watching and whether or not the program is suitable for their age group.
• Be a good role model for your child by setting an example with your own TV viewing habits. Don’t watch programs that contain adult content when your child is in the room or nearby.
• Offer alternatives to watching TV to your child, such as playing a board game, reading, playing outside, working on crafts or hobbies or listening to music.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a physician. Dr. Sally Robinson is Professor of Pediatrics, and Dr. Keith Bly is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Children's Hospital. For more information, visit: www.utmb.edu. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a physician.


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