Common sense tells you not to expose your children to alcohol and drugs on TV — and there’s plenty of science to back you up. Research reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics finds that the more your kids get exposed through the media to tobacco, alcohol and drugs, the more likely they’ll be to use or abuse these substances. Set your preschooler on a safe course by shaping his television habits now.
Curb The Appetite
Pediatricians recommend that children younger than the age of 2 not be exposed to television at all. Limit preschoolers to no more than two hours of screen time per day. Never furnish your child’s bedroom with a TV — the more TV a child watches, the bigger her appetite for television. Curb your youngster’s TV appetite now to reduce her exposure to unhealthy — and influential — messages on television in the future.
Know What They’re Watching
Even if you’re a conscientious parent who wouldn’t dream of allowing your kids to watch undesirable programs, know that toddlers and preschoolers can be skilled operators of the buttons on your TV and remote control. Do you really know what they’re watching when your attention is elsewhere? Children are prone to imitation; the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that drug and alcohol use appears frequently on television, even in some programs designed for kids. These scenes often portray alcohol and drug use as humorous or harmless, thereby creating an appeal that can influence kids to make unhealthy choices.
Use Your Influence
Because children are natural imitators, they can also be influenced by positive messages, lessons and role models. When you watch TV with your kids you have an opportunity to discuss what you’ve seen together. This is your chance to shape the way they understand the messages coming through the screen. Take advantage of these teachable moments to reinforce your children’s notions about what is good, right and healthy — as well as what is not.
Pull The Plug
There are times when your hands are full and you need your toddler to be occupied.Using TV in these situations may be tempting but independent play, reading and activities that engage your child’s senses are better. With a little planning, you can create options that stimulate healthy child development by encouraging your kids to explore, touch, move and socialize instead of relying on television. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension has a list of ideas that include dancing, playing with safe household objects and helping Mom and Dad with chores.