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TV time for toddlers?

Chances are, your toddler has already watched at least some TV with you. But you might wonder: How much TV is too much for toddlers?

A screen-free home isn't practical for most parents. That said, screen time should be very limited for children younger than 2 years and avoided for those younger than 18 months, according to children's health experts. One reason? Toddlers who watch a lot of TV (or smartphone or tablet screens) may fall behind in areas like language and social skill development.

Why is that? When your toddler watches a screen, they're not watching or playing with you. Watching, playing or just spending time with people is an important part of your toddler's development. It helps them learn about the world around them.

Timely advice for screens

It's OK to introduce children 18 months and older to TV and other digital media, if you want to. But you'll want to set some limits. Check out the following advice, which also goes for apps and other screens too:

Be choosy. Choose high-quality programming, like educational shows that are suitable for toddlers. Good programs can help kids learn things like language and positive behaviors.

Watch with your toddler. Your child may learn more when you are there to watch and talk about the program and answer any questions.

Flip the switch. Turn off the TV when no one is watching it. Background TV may also harm learning.

Ban it in the bedroom. It's best to keep TVs out of the bedroom (yours and your child's). Screens can interfere with the important sleep your child needs to grow.

Provide healthy alternatives. Encourage your child to play, read with you and use their imagination.

Coming soon

When your child turns 2, you might start to allow a little more TV and other media use. But try to keep it to less than an hour a day until your child turns 5. And remember: It's still important to choose good content and watch with your child.

Your child will benefit from the healthy habits that you begin to teach today.

Source: American Academy of PediatricsChild Mind Institute

Reviewed 10/6/2022

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