NPR logo To Cut Kids' TV Time, Parents Need To Impose Limits Consistently

Your Health

To Cut Kids' TV Time, Parents Need To Impose Limits Consistently

It's a constant struggle with kids. You know they shouldn't watch so much TV, but how do you unglue them from the screen?

He better not do this for more than 2 hours a day. iStockphoto.com hide caption

toggle caption
iStockphoto.com

He better not do this for more than 2 hours a day.

iStockphoto.com

A recent study suggests that setting limits on screen time and being consistent about them can make a difference.

There's plenty of room for improvement. A study published in the July issue of Pediatrics found about 1 in 4 kids spends more than 2 hours a day watching TV or playing video games. Time spent in front of the screen increased as kids got older. Boys spent more time in front of the set than girls.

Susan A. Carlson, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who headed up the study, involving more than 7,000 families, sympathizes with parents.

She sees her 2 1/2-year-old son coming back from daycare having learned about the latest cartoon characters like Dora and Nemo. "When you have a child, you realize it’s embedded into our society," says Carlson.

But Carlson says she’s also seen parents successfully promote healthier television habits. Some budget the shows their kids can watch and put rules on content instead of time. For now, she’s limiting her own son to 20 minutes each day.

The researchers interviewed thousands of kids aged 9 to 15 and their parents. Less than half the parents said they "always" or "very often" put a limit on television time for their kids.

An important factor was whether the parents knew that the recommended limit for screen time is less than 2 hours a day. Kids under two shouldn't watch TV at all.

About a quarter of parents thought the recommended limit on TV and video game time was 3 hours or more. Not surprisingly, their kids were more likely to end up watching more TV.

NPR thanks our sponsors