How Much TV Does the Average Child Watch Each Day?

More than 70 percent of children ages 8 to 18 have TVs in their bedrooms, according to the University of Michigan Health System. More than 35 percent have cable or satellite-TV access. Criticism of the effects of TV on children is documented. But with your guidance, TV can also be a positive influence in your child's life.

Older children are increasingly watching TV on computers and mobile phones. (Image: Flying Colours Ltd/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Viewing Statistics

In 2009, the Nielsen Co. reported that children's television viewing had reached an eight-year high. Children ages 2 to 5 watched TV for more than 32 hours a week. Kids ages 6 to 8 spent 28 hours per week in front of the tube, most likely because they were in school, explains Nielsen. The Kaiser Family Foundation also conducted research on the media habits of children ages 8 to 18. Kaiser found that on average, this age group spends 4½ hours each day watching TV in various forms, including on their mobile phones and the Internet.

Negative Effects

Television viewing is a major contributor to childhood obesity, which is rapidly rising in America and internationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Obesity can put your child at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and high-blood pressure later in life. Television negatively affects your child in other ways, too. It can affect his academic performance. It diverts your child from activities such as playing and connecting with family and friends. Moreover, the University of Washington says that watching violence on TV can cause anxiety and depression.

Positive Effects

Although TV's bad effects get a lot of attention, it can still be beneficial for your child -- with your guidance. Television can take your child on a virtual tour of the world, expose her to different cultures and teach her positive behaviors, which is often a cornerstone of shows with messages such as sharing, cooperation and sympathy, according to the University of Michigan Health System. Several children's shows also teach kids about reading, mathematics and languages they don't speak.

How to Help Your Child

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends watching programs with your child and selecting age-appropriate shows. Limit the amount of TV your child watches each day, and keep the TV off during meal and study times. Also hit the off button when you feel your child is watching an inappropriate show. Discuss TV programs with your child and encourage her to be critical of what he's watching.

TV Safety Technology

It's understandable that you can't always be there to supervise your child's TV viewing. The Federal Communications Commission recommends a few methods to prevent your child from watching inappropriate shows. For instance, you can install V-chip technology to automatically block programs not rated for children. Or you can contact your local cable company to order a lock box or digital set-top box to block out certain shows or channels.

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