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Tips for limiting TV time

Published on: December 31, 2009

Limiting TV timeTips and resources for parents, caregivers and day care providers, provided by Seattle Children's Hospital.

For babies:
Avoid TV for children younger than age 2. Choose activities that promote language development and brain growth, such as talking, playing, reading, singing and enjoying music.

For children older than 2:
If you allow TV time, choose age-appropriate programs. Involve parents and older children in setting guidelines for what to watch. Use guides and ratings to help, but beware of unproven claims that programs or DVDs are educational. Even cartoons produced for children can be violent or overstimulating. Make sure all programs or DVDs used at home and also in day care are appropriate.

Limit total TV time to no more than two hours per day. Less is better. Be sure to add up TV time at home plus TV time in day care.

For parents:

  • Talk to day care providers about your concerns. Find out what children under their care will watch, when and how much. Speak up and set limits. Ask your child what they are watching in day care, just as you would ask what they eat and what they do.
  • Keep the TV off during meals.
  • Set “media-free” days and plan other fun things to do.
  • Avoid using TV as a reward.
  • Turn off the TV when a chosen program is over. Don’t leave the TV on as background filler or while engaging in other activities. When no one is actively watching, turn the TV off.
  • Watch TV actively with children. Talk about what you see and engage with children about the content.
  • Keep TVs out of bedrooms and sleeping areas.

For daycare providers:
Remember that screen time is not proven to provide any benefits to children and may in fact cause harm if overused. Television replaces more positive activities, such as interactive play, singing, reading and talking. Choose to use TV sparingly and deliberately. Talk to parents about how television is used in the day care setting, and respect their concerns and wishes.

Helpful websites:;;;; and

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