11/30/2012 06:51 pm ET

Table Talk: How Young Is Too Young For TV?

This week's Family Dinner Table Talk, from HuffPost and The Family Dinner book:

Not so long ago, we lived in a world of very few screens. Yes, homework was written out by hand or done on a typewriter, TVs were relatively rare and the only way to talk to friends after school was on a phone with a cord.

In today's world, school assignments are often submitted online, the average American spends more than a full day every week watching TV and contact with friends and family -- by phone, text, email and video chat -- is almost constant.

Even though we live in such a tech-powered world, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids avoid screen time before the age of 2 -- and limit their screen exposure to just a couple of hours per day after that. And recently, psychologist Dr Aric Sigman made an even stricter recommendation, writing that he thinks kids should have minimal screen time before age 3 to avoid negative psychological effects of overexposure. To little “Dora” fans and iPhone borrowers -- and their parents -- this might sound extreme. But Dr. Sigman says it’s all in the name of keeping kids’ development on track, and avoiding potential screen dependency.

Research continues to explore the exact effects that screen time has on children and adults, but we shouldn’t forget that if we spend too much time in front of screens -- watching TV, playing computer games or texting friends -- we’ll miss out on all sorts of other important activities like reading, getting fresh air outside, or just socializing without electronic distractions.

So tonight, let’s close our computers, put away our phones and talk about how to keep screen time in check -- and enjoy ourselves when we’re totally unplugged.

Questions for discussion:
  • Do you think the expectation that kids will hold off on watching TV until age 3 is realistic?
  • What can you do -- alone or as a family -- instead of watching TV or using the computer?
  • How can you limit screen time while also completing homework and keeping in touch with friends?

In her recent cookbook, The Family Dinner, Laurie David talks about the importance of families making a ritual of sitting down to dinner together, and how family dinners offer a great opportunity for meaningful discussions about the day's news. "Dinner," she says, "is as much about digestible conversation as it is about delicious food."

We couldn't agree more. So HuffPost has joined with Laurie and every Friday afternoon, just in time for dinner, our editors highlight one of the most compelling news stories of the week -- stories that will spark a lively discussion among the whole family.



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