I let my 3-year-old watch TV.

There, I said it.

I completely commend parents that can survive with no TV.  But, for my family, for right now, TV is okay with us.  I like the quiet time we spend snuggling and watching a cartoon right after he wakes up and I like the time that the video “How do they Build Fire trucks” gives me to tend to his sister or get dinner ready.

But I do worry about how much is too much?

The American Academy of Pediatrics stance is no TV for kids under 2 and one hour for those over 2 years.

In a recent article on Babycenter.com, Kathleen Acord talks about sane ways to incorporate TV into your child’s life.  (Now, in full disclosure, Acord works for a KQED program that teaches parents and childcare providers how to use TV as a learning tool, so of course her stance is going to be a little one sided.)

But let me summarizes a few of the key points:

Watch Programs, Not Television

Basically don’t sit your kid down in front of the Jerry Springer show and infomercials for the Shake Weight because that’s the last channel on last night.  This is why I love our DVR.  I can record shows that I feel are more appropriate and it is easier to control the time, since the recording shuts off after the program is over.

Choose Calm, Quiet Programs  

This is where the recent uprising over the “Sponge Bob Study” comes in.  Researches found that when 4 year olds watched 9 minutes of fast paced cartoons (like Sponge Bob), they then scored lower on brain function tests than 4 year olds who watched a PBS program or who colored with crayons for 9 minutes.

Frankly, I think parents all over rejoiced in a reason to NOT watch sponge bob.  I know the TV as education concept is debated, but I would rather my kids spout Spanish phrases with Dora, or count to 10 with Blue.

Watch With Your Child

Acord sites a study that showed when children watched TV with their parents, they scored higher academically than those who watched without an adult present (this study did not, however, compare academic success of non tv watchers).  The idea is that by watching with your children, you are not only more closely monitoring what they watch, but you are also sending them a message that what they do is important to you.

Extend What Your Child Watches Into the Real World

After we watch “How Fire Trucks are Made,” we drive by the fire house and describe which trucks we see, which one is a ladder truck and which is an engine.   If Dora uses the phrase “Falta Algo?” I try to use that phrase throughout the day too.


Worlds longest train track

I think TV is like any other treat we allow our kids.   It’s all okay in moderation and with specific intentions.   A good friend, who is a nutritionist, allows her child to have dessert every night because he eats healthy, wholesome foods all day long.  He loves a wide variety of foods, so sweet treats also fit into that wide variety.

I like the snuggle time we have on the couch watching a morning cartoon or unwinding before naptime.  But I also love to snuggle up and read a book, or go to the park and run around outside!  Some rainy weekends we make hot chocolate and watch a two hour Pixar movie in our pajamas.  But other days we build the worlds biggest train track spanning the living room and dinning room and the TV never even gets turned on.