The Canadian Paediatric Society discourages screen-based activities (TV, video games, hand-held devices, etc) for children under 2. Limit daily TV watching to less than 1 to 2 hours a day for older children.
Less is best when it comes to screen time. Too much TV watching can affect your child’s sleep, cause behaviour problems, and leaves less time for active play. Use your free time for other family activities—reading, visiting museums, walking, biking, or whatever you enjoy.
These tips can help you promote good TV habits in your home. They may also help protect your child from the negative influences of television.
For the whole family
Introduce good television habits when your children are young. As your children grow older, it will become harder to enforce rules and set limits.
Children learn from what they see. The morals and values found in a TV show or on a commercial might be different from your own. Be a good role model with your own viewing habits.
Encourage your child to watch programs that help teach such as shows about nature, science, the arts, music or history.
Explain the rules of TV watching in your home to caregivers such as nannies or grandparents. Tell your children it’s okay to tell others when they feel afraid or don’t want to watch a particular show when visiting.
Violence on TV can affect your child or teen’s behaviour. Young children shouldn’t watch programs with violence, sex or bad language.
Turn off the TV when you aren’t using it such as during meals and during study time. Don’t use the TV as background noise.
Keep televisions and video games out of children’s bedrooms.
Bedtimes should be consistent. They should not change because of a TV show. If your child or teen wants to see a program that airs past your child’s bedtime, consider recording it.
For younger children (toddlers and preschoolers)
Make sure your child watches programs you are familiar with and, whenever you can, watch them together. Avoid using your TV as a caregiver.
Talk about the ideas and activities your child sees on TV, such as sharing, giving, loving or doing the alphabet together. Use follow-up activities to teach why these things are important.
Build a recorded library of your child’s favourite shows—young children love to watch the same programs over and over again.
For older children (school-aged children)
Older children can plan a weekly viewing schedule, but you should still supervise their choices.
Talk about the difference between fantasy, make-believe and reality. Encourage your children to talk about what they see on TV. Discuss and explain why they can’t watch certain programs. This is a chance to explain the values you feel are important.
Television is a powerful tool for selling or promoting toys and products. Discuss advertising with your child and explain that they are meant to sell something. If you have recorded the show you are watching, fast-forward through the advertising.
Make a rule that homework and chores must be finished before your child can watch television. Consider a “no TV” rule during the school week.