A new study recently reported that children who spend more time in front of televisions and computers, despite getting adequate physical activity, have more evidence of psychological problems than children who do not. When you toss in lack of physical activity below recommended guidelines, the children who spent greater time online and watching television fared even worse.
While it has been known for decades that excessive television watching can be detrimental for children, this new study is worrisome as computers are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in modern society and isolating children from this new form of media may prove to be impractical. Though obviously parents can limit the amount of time that young children spend in front of the television set or computer.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 2 have no “screen time”, which means no television or computer use, and that children above the age of 2 only have one to two hours of quality programing each day. The American Academy of Pediatrics full recommendations are:
1. Limit children’s total media time (with entertainment media) to no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming per day.
2. Remove television sets from children’s bedrooms.
3. Discourage television viewing for children younger than 2 years, and encourage more interactive activities that will promote proper brain development, such as talking, playing, singing, and reading together.
4. Monitor the shows children and adolescents are viewing. Most programs should be informational, educational, and nonviolent.
5. View television programs along with children, and discuss the content. Two recent surveys involving a total of nearly 1500 parents found that less than half of parents reported always watching television with their children.
6. Use controversial programming as a stepping-off point to initiate discussions about family values, violence, sex and sexuality, and drugs.
7. Use the videocassette recorder wisely to show or record high-quality, educational programming for children.
8. Support efforts to establish comprehensive media-education programs in schools.
9. Encourage alternative entertainment for children, including reading, athletics, hobbies, and creative play.
However, I wonder what the results would be if a similar study looked at the use of electronic book readers, such as iPads, among children to see if reading books electronically is as bad as surfing the internet. Eventually, the use of electronic reading devices for homework and study maay become much more common in educational institutions from elementary schools to colleges. Working comfortably with new technology is an important skill for children to master, but obviously not at the risk of psychological harm.
Perhaps someone will invent an ebook reader for children which allows access to only educational books and materials, with limited internet connectivity.
PEDIATRICS Vol. 107 No. 2 February 2001, pp. 423-426
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS:
Children, Adolescents, and Television
Committee on Public Education