Media is a major part of our lives. Between computers, cell phones, tablets and television, we are inundated every day. And so are our children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children over the age of two get just one to two hours of screen time per day. Children under two are advised to get none at all.

The AAP estimates today’s children are spending an average of seven hours a day consuming some sort of media. Much like monitoring what our children eat, parents also now need to be aware of their children’s media diet.

“The important thing is to keep kids busy,” says Dr. Julia Pillsbury of the Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. “Children learn so much in the first two years of their life. They will be limited in what they learn simply by watching television. The brain processes things differently in real life versus on television. Real life is 3D. TV is 2D.”

Too much media can have lasting effects on young children.

“A big problem we are dealing with nationally is childhood obesity,” says Pillsbury. “Children who watch more than the recommended amount of media are less active and may also have the tendency to snack more. There are also behavioral and school problems associated with too much media. Many children are not sleeping enough or not sleeping well enough.”

Pillsbury says it is important for parents to be selective when it comes to the one or two hours of recommended screen time.

“Parents should watch programs first to make sure it is appropriate for their children. There is so much violence on television these days,” says Pillsbury. “Parents can use many programs as a learning tool. ‘Sesame Street,’ for example, touches on social interaction. Some of the characters get their feelings hurt. That allows parents to talk to their children about behaviors that hurt others and how to act appropriately.”

Most importantly, she says parents need to make other activities a priority.

“Kids can be reading, exercising, playing outside, or even just talking to their parents. In the first couple years of life, children should be able to explore their interests by playing and doing, not necessarily sitting and watching.”

Ultimately, children model behavior based on their parents. If children see their parents exploring the outdoors, reading books, or engaging in activity, they will see there is so much more to do than stay inside and watch television.

If your child is in need of a pediatrician, please call our physician referral service at 866-BAY-DOCS.