Dr. Heidi - Turn Off Your TV!

Hey, someone turn that TV down! I’ve got something important to say! 

                The basic message is- turn off the TV.  Less TV, computer and video game time is better.  One great way to try this is to start small- with Screen Free Week, April 29-May5.  Just 7 short days, anyone can do that, right? Try thinking up fun, family activities instead.  The kids will love playing outdoors, baking, visiting the library, and being creative by painting and drawing.  And then, maybe use screen free week as a transition to a happier, healthier family.  

Research study after research study has continued to show the same evidence about TV- it’s bad for kids!  If something like broccoli was shown to cause things like obesity, poor school performance, inattention, sleep disturbance and emotional problems, who would eat it? Most recently, a study in pediatrics showed that kids who watched more violent TV shows were more likely to have a criminal record!

                As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in front of a computer… a screen! Obviously, there are benefits to some screen time.  TVs bring news from around the world into our living room; computers and the internet have revolutionized our lives.  While there are benefits, there are also many negatives, especially for kids.  So I’m not saying no TV or computer ever, what I’m saying is to make good choices and use moderation.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1-2 hours of screen time per day, and NO screen time at all for babies and toddlers <2 years old.  It has been shown that for kids, something like reading a story on a computer is not the same as reading a real book. The Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood says, “Operating the mouse while reading a story on the computer requires more executive functioning skills than turning pages of a book, which means that some children are not able to simultaneously operate the mouse and comprehend the story.”  So reading actual books does matter.

                A great place to start is by making sure if your kids are going to watch TV, at least make it quality.  A website like www.commonsense media.org can provide some good information and ratings on the shows and movies your family is watching.  A recent study in Pediatrics looked at groups of kids who essentially watched the same amount of television, but those that watched quality, nonviolent shows had better behavior.  Another idea is to keep the TV off during a family meal.  Eating together allows families to talk to each other and parents find out how things are going in their kids’ lives.  The TV is a distraction that keeps kids quiet.  Lastly, keep the TV out of the bedroom.  Kids with television sets in the bedroom watch much more TV than those without.  It is harder for parents to know what kids are watching if they are in a different room.  

                I know we are in an age of technology, but getting outside, playing and being imaginative is just as important for kids now as it was 30 years ago.  Screens will ever be part of our future going forward, but the time we spend together with family (and the screens off) will be what memories are made of.  Enjoy Screen Free Week!  

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