Is Watching Television Bad for Kids?

Watching television isn’t all bad. There can be some good things from TV time. You want to use it in moderation.

Child watching television

I have had a question from a reader about my thoughts on television. Is it bad for kids to watch television or is it okay?

Here are my opinions.

Watching Television Isn’t Inherently Bad

First, I don’t think television in and of itself is bad.

I do find there to be a lot of things I don’t agree with and/or don’t want my children watching. I find that television can be used for good, but also bad.

I do allow Brayden to watch some television each day. He watches about an hour. I have found if he has more than that, he gets to be less obedient, and more interested in being disobedient.

It isn’t the shows he is watching. He only watches PBS Kids or movies. So it isn’t the shows, but the actual television that causes the problem.

Kaitlyn doesn’t watch television (though she has seen it). Some day I will let her. Brayden didn’t start having it as a regular part of his day until he was 19-20 months old. He started watching it on occasion around 15-16 months old.

Television is Addictive

Television is physiologically addictive. We all know that. It is good to set limits so that we do other things.

Watching some TV each day is fine (at least in my eyes). You can find good things to watch that educate and entertain in a good way. But you don’t want it to become the main part of the day.

In the United States, it is reported that the average child watches approximately four hours of television daily–that is just television. Watching movies and playing video games are a separate number (American Academy of Pediatrics, “Television and the Family,” 1,

Does that sound like a lot of time spent sitting in front of a TV to you? It does me!

I doubt that parents prefer their children to just sit in front of the TV for the majority of their waking hours, but it happens.

It happens because it is addictive.

If this is happening at your house, try setting a timer so you all know when TV time should be over.

Setting limits realistic for your family is a great idea.

There are so many other things for children to do. Coloring, playing with toys, listening to music, playing with play-doh, playing outside, reading, homework, chores, friends, walks, etc.

We all know.

You can’t possibly fit it all into the day even without TV in the mix.

Television can teach, but it is absorbent learning rather than interactive learning. There are theories that learning problems in the classroom stem from children expecting to be entertained into their knowledge, rather than having to work for it.

All of these activities and more can teach your child more concretely.

Some nights my son will ask to watch a show, and I will suggest something else instead. He always says, “YEAH!” He doesn’t prefer the television to other activities, but it is the easiest and most entertaining thing for him to turn to.

It is a lot harder in the winter (at least where I live–we have real winter). Outside time is limited or non-existent. But a little thought (and honestly a lot of effort on your part) can get you through!

Television Can Teach Undesirable Lessons

Even seemingly harmless shows can teach children things you don’t necessarily want them learning. You do not want the majority of the lessons learned by your child to come from the television.

A lot of violence can be seen on television in our modern times. We all know children pick up and learn from television, for better or worse.

Limit and Watch in Moderation

So my opinions on television (and other media) are to limit the amount of time and also to always know what is being watched and/or played. You are the parent; you set the rules.

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12 thoughts on “Is Watching Television Bad for Kids?”

  1. Hi again. Question for you on starting cereal. My son is 4 months and just had his doctor’s appt. I asked the pediatrician about when she would recommend me starting cereal, and she said it depends on how long I want to breastfeed. If I want to breastfeed for 1 year, I should wait until 6 months. Mostly for supply reasons. I was hoping to start at 4.5 or 5 months to get him used to it before he absolutely needs it. I’ve read your posts on when & how to start… what is your opinion on milk supply and starting cereal?

  2. Well, I started both at 4 months on solids. I breastfed Brayden until one year and Kaitlyn is 10.5 months and still going strong. No problems. I stopped with Brayden because we were both ready. I plan to wean Kaitlyn at one year also. So in my experience, we have done just fine with breastfeeding and solids. I think if you still have set meals (not breastfeed, hour later solids, etc.), then you should do fine with milk supply. Also, if you start each session out with the breastfeeding, baby will be hungry and interested in nursing and get a good “stimulation” session in.

  3. This is a topic of guilt. I breastfeed in front of the tv, and have my own habit of having it on in the room even though I’m busy and not paying attention to it most of the day. My son does notice it while breastfeeding when he sits up, but doesn’t pay attention to it while in the den playing. Gee, should I cut it off?

  4. I doubt that a few minutes of TV are going to be detrimental to him. Most young babies, it seems, are not interested in the TV, just like you are describing. I will watch the news while I get lunch ready, and Kaitlyn is in the room, but doesn’t watch it. So when I say I don’t let her watch TV, I mean I don’t set her in front of the TV with the intention of her watching it. She does see snipits here and there, but isn’t at a point in life where it interests her. Also, I nurse her in the same room Brayden is watching TV in, so she also sees some then. Again, she isn’t interested in the TV.To be fair, there are studies that say that having TV on as background noise for babies will delay their speech development. However, I am the type to have it on for background noise. I am an extrovert, and when I was suddenly home alone with only a little baby, it was hard for me. I needed the background noise of TV even when I wasn’t watching it. It wasn’t ALWAYS on, but on a lot. Brayden said his first word at 9 monhts and by one year said over 100 words, so it didn’t seem to delay his speech development.

  5. What do you think of the baby einstein videos? I will let Brady watch maybe 15 minutes of those, and I have found that he has picked up a lot of different sounds. I let him watch that…and I let him watch Thomas. Sometimes, he will not take his bottle. But, if I put Thomas on he will sit and watch that.

  6. Something I like about the Baby Einstein videos is that they don’t change screens as often as most videos. Brayden loves Thomas movies too 🙂 Remember, some TV isn’t going to be a problem–it is too much TV and addiction to TV that we want to watch out for.

  7. Yes, most of those PBS shows are pretty good. I have noticed the newer shows are having even longer screens and almost akward wait times. Have you ever watched Super Why? I love it, but the first few times we watched it I felt a bit uncomfortable because they waited so long after asking a question. It is perfect though.

  8. Is you daughter now watching TV? If so at what age did she start watching it on a regular bases?What are some of your children’s favorite DVD’s?Also I am looking for some more ideas on how to schedule Isabella’s day. Here is how her day currently goes:7:00 up and drinks milk7:30 breakfast8-9 structured play time in either her crib or play pen.9-9:30 bath and dress for the day9:30-9:45 Daddy play time9:45 book, prayers and down for nap at 10.10-11 nap11 milk11:30 lunch12 or 12:30 outing with mom if the weather is good1:30 or 2:00 depending on the time we get home free play time2:15 book and soothing time2:30-4:304:30 milk5:00 structured play time or if daddy is home from work she has daddy time till dinner.6:00/6:30 dinnerfree play time after dinner depending on the time we are done.7:00 milk then bedtime routine7:30 bedI am looking for some ideas of things that we can do when it is a rainy day and are unable to go outside. We do have a pretty bad winter and I will be needing some more ideas for day time activities. She is 15 months. What are some things I could be doing for a learning time? Is this too soon to add an educational DVD i.e. “Signing Times” into her day? Toddler Wise states “for a toddler 14-20 months, consider time on a blanket.” We are starting to do that and it lasts max 10 minutes. Now that the weather is changing and we may have to be staying doors more I want our time to be structured and good. However I have run out of ideas of things we could be doing.

  9. Kaitlyn doesn’t watch TV regularly. The most she will watch in a day (not at a time, but in a day) is about 5 minutes–maybe. The first time Brayden ever watched TV for more than 5 minutes he was 19 months. It isn’t something I would push, but if your daughter is interested, you can do it. Just be sure to limit.We have really harsh, long winters also. Your daughter might be a bit young for some of these ideas, but it will give you some ideas. See:Learning Activities (Preschoolwise) : think some good early DVDs are Elmo’s World. When we travel long distances, that is what I put in for Kaitlyn. Also Leap Frog Letter Factory–I love that. That is a good idea for a post; I will have to do that.Also, for winter inside activities, I will do a post for that 🙂

  10. Do you find that watching TV before naps or bed causes more anxiety? We just moved in with my in-laws and the TV is on almost non-stop. I never let him watch more than 30 min in the morning and 30 min in the afternoon until we moved here but now I can't control it well. If it's not his show it's someone else's. I've just started noticing that this week he has started crying really hard and screaming everyone's names before nap time. Bed time isn't bad. Last night he watched a movie with Papa and he did scream for us for about 10 minutes but then fell asleep. I just don't know what has brought this on and I'm wondering if it's 2 yr. molars (he's 21 months), age or tv. What do you think?

  11. Brandon Lee, I think TV can be very stimulating. I think there is a good chance that is causing problems. But the molars is also a possibility 🙂 There is always more than one thing to consider, huh? 🙂


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