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Age 2-Adolescent Years: Managing Your Child’s Screen Time

Posted by: T. Anthony GiaQuinta, M.D.   |   Monday, March 4, 2013   |   Latest Articles   |   Back to Blog

television guidelines, tv, AAP, American Academy of pediatrics, cell phone, child, computer, internet, recommendations, screen time, television

(Editor's Note: In this blog, Dr. GiaQuinta discusses managing "screen time" for children ages 2 through the adolescent years. His previous post explored screen time guidelines and other helpful information for parents of younger children.)

As a parent and physician, I understand that in today’s digital world it can be challenging to safeguard your child from too much “screen time.” Here are some guidelines and helpful information for parents. I have broken it down into three age ranges: age 0-2 years; age 2 through adolescence; and the adolescent years.

Ages 2 – Adolescence

Ok, you get two hours folks. The big difference at this stage is that toddlers are able to interpret the images and sounds from a television as corollaries from their real environment and DO have the potential to enhance verbal skills, basic learning (letters and numbers), and certain life experiences. Of course, I’m talking about educational television programming like "Sesame Street," "Mr. Rogers" (RIP) and nature programs (did you make your PBS donation this year, viewer-like-you?). Unfortunately, not all shows designed for children have such favorable effects. In fact, a study published just last year in Pediatrics found that 9 minutes of "fast paced" cartoons (i.e., "SpongeBob SquarePants") decreased a child’s executive functioning (I’m thinking "Ren and Stimpy" did not do me a lot of good either).

Other "hot-off-the-press" info to consider:

  • A study this month in Pediatrics noted that limiting violent TV programming in pre-schoolers, and switching to educational programming, were less aggressive and showed healthier social behavior after just six months.1
  • A new study from New Zealand tracked 1,037 children from birth to age 26 and found that those who watched more television between ages 5 and 15 were more likely to be convicted of a crime than those who viewed less television.2
  • In addition to the sedentary time spent watching television, the marketing that encourages unhealthy snacks has been a real boon to our growing pediatric obesity epidemic; at least that is, until the "Carrots and Celery" commercials get additional funding.3

The Adolescent Years
So again, two hours is our TV viewing limit for the same reasons mentioned above. However, remember that screen time also includes internet, video games, cell phones, and tablets. Even though your child is older and perhaps more mature, the sexuality, violence, drugs, and alcohol exposures, and the context they are presented, could be confusing when presented in real-life scenarios.4

This can lead to bad decisions. Of course, these could be good opportunities for important-yet-awkward conversations, so try to be ready to tackle them when they arise. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:

  • Helping your child to choose which shows to watch and planning a weekly TV viewing schedule
  • Turning the TV off when the show is over
  • Never allowing the TV to become a babysitter
  • Keeping TV sets or DVDs, video games, and computers out of your child’s bedroom
  • Watching TV with your child to help educate him about advertising and commercials.

Again, it cannot be stressed enough that even educational TV is no a substitute for reading, playing, creativity, fantasy, communication, problem-solving and other activities that can only occur with the television off. Happy parenting!

~T. Anthony GiaQuinta, M.D.

1. Christakis, DA. Modifying Media Content for Preschool Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics Vol. 128 No.2. February 2013.
2. Robertson, LA, et al. Childhood and Adolescent Television Viewing and Antisocial Behavior in Early Adulthood. Pediatrics Vol. 131 No. 2. February 2013.
3. Roberto, CA, et al. Influence of Licensed Characters on Children's Taste and Snack PreferencesPediatrics Vol. 126 No. 1 July 1, 2010 pp. 88-93.
4. Lillard AS, Peterson J. The immediate impact of different types of television on young children’s executive function. Pediatrics. 2011;128(4): 644–649.

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