While TV, video games and computer games may be your go-to, free baby-sitter so that you can make a quick phone call, wash the dishes in peace or have a few moments to yourself, they may be interfering with your little one’s social development and affecting his behavior in negative ways.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, if your child watches three to four hours of non-educational TV each day, he will have witnessed more than 8,000 murders on TV by the time he finishes elementary school. While a little bit of cartoon violence may seem like no big deal, recognize that your little one doesn’t understand that Ursula of “The Little Mermaid” is actually just a cartoon — to her, the pretend scary sea witch is an actual scary sea witch. The AAP states that violence on the screen can lead to violent behavior in children.
Dealing With Conflict
Though your child may have a blast playing video games and watching movies starring his favorite superheroes, the content of these images will likely affect his beliefs on acceptable ways to deal with conflict. According to Education.com, a child who is repeatedly exposed to violent media begins to believe that dealing with conflict aggressively is appropriate. When he repeatedly sees his heroes dealing with conflict by wiping out the bad guys, it becomes harder for him to think of a nonviolent way to deal with a peer conflict in his own day-to-day life.
Overall Social Development
When your child spends his infant, toddler and preschooler years — times of prime development — with Elmo and Dora, it takes away from other opportunities for him to develop his cognitive and social skills with real-life people. Excessive screen time means that he is passively watching other characters engage in activities rather than spending time running around at the park with his friends, reading a book with a parent or piecing together a puzzle with a sibling. According to Education.com, all of the technical stimulation that comes from screen images in the developmental years also places your child at an increased risk for attention problems during his school years.
The AAP recommends that parents do not allow any screen time for children under the age of 2, and that parents limit screen time to one to two hours for children older than age 2. Be aware of what games your child is playing and what programs he is watching, and help him select educational programs that are free of violent content. Watch shows with him so that if a violent situation does occur before you can avoid it, you can discuss appropriate behaviors and alternate solutions with him