It's funny how many new topics there are to discuss during a child's check up. I am sure that 10-15 years ago, I was not spending a part of each child's well visit discussing screen time. I begin this discussion early on, even before the child is watching TV as a child under the age of 2 gets a lot of secondhand media exposure.
I find that some new parents have the TV on all day, tuned into CNN or CNBC (just to name a few) and the images on the screen are often not age appropriate nor is the language. Suddenly their toddler is asking about death, tornadoes, wars and carnage. A 2 year old is too young to understand a lot of this, but they know it is scary. They may also develop sleep disturbances as this age related to the scary images.
As the child is older, the images flashing across the news screen all day continue. But the older child can grasp the concepts a bit better, but instead of being truly scared, they become anxious. I see too many 5- 0 year old children who now worry that the approaching thunderstorm means a tornado, or going to school might mean getting shot. Although these types of tragedies are all too real, fortunately they are not a day-to-day occurrence and I dont think an elementary age child needs to be afraid to leave their parents to go to school for fear of being shot.
The same goes for the older child. Many of my tween and teen patients have a TV in their bedroom. (I ask this question at every visit beginning at age 2). I often hear that their TV is not connected to cable. It is not only the cable channels anymore that have inappropriate content for children of all ages.
The tween is bombarded by live news images of children being killed around the world, or of sexually explicit images as well. Even a good vigilant parent cannot always know what their 14 old might find on the TV that is in their own room.
I cant tell you how many times a day I recommend that a parent take the TV out of their childs bedroom. Some parents think I am crazy, and many teens want to duct tape my mouth shut, but study after study shows that there is no need for media in a childs room. I even hear that the child earned the TV for good behavior. Reward their behavior in another way! I tell all of my patients that they can have a TV in their own room, (gasps from some parents while I say that), but they will be in their own college dorm or home before they do.
Remember to try and limit your childs screen time to less than 1-2 hours/day, (even if only as secondhand media). Watch TV with your child and discuss the content in an age appropriate manner. Lastly, keep the media in the family room and not a childs bedroom.
That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat again tomorrow.