THE BLOG

Rules Can't 'Fix' Kids and TV

08/06/2013 04:08 pm ET | Updated Oct 06, 2013
Dr. G

Remember three TV channels? One TV in the house? How old were you the first time you got to watch TV alone?

There's been a lot made of the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendations about kids and TV viewing. Those rules exist because of statistics about kids TV viewing in America, like the fact that kids aged 2-11 watch an average of 30 hours a week. Also, they are a reaction to the research that shows how kids are affected by the content they watch on a screen.

Make no mistake. Kids are affected by what they watch. Preschoolers have a direct link between TV hours and the amount of sugary snacks and soda they consume. Watching violence on TV increases violent behavior and tolerance of becoming a victim. Viewing characters who smoke on the screen more than quintuples the risk that a teen will start smoking. Teens (ages 12-17) who view heavy sexual content on TV are twice as likely to step up their level of intimacy or start having sex than those who watch less.

So now I have another question. Do you remember your parents sitting around watching TV for almost five hours a night after work? Me either.

Parents TV habits, according to this month's Journal of Pediatrics, have the biggest influence on how much TV our kids watch. More than TVs in kids' bedrooms, more than the "screen time limits" we put in place, more than dropping in to watch a little of whatever they are watching, our kids are doing whatever we do.

Much as we might wish it wasn't so, our kids -- though they'd likely deny it -- eat what we eat, exercise if we do, use the substances we use, and now it's clear that they watch if and what we watch.

So, while our kids are still kids, we need to use this incredible power for good.