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Study shows importance of limiting TV time

By Sarah Klein

While most of the commentary on the recent study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation focused on the dramatic increase in the amount of time kids and teens are spending with media, many important smaller findings came out of this hefty body of research.

One of those findings emphasizes the importance of placing limits on the amount of time children are allowed to spend each day watching TV, using the computer or playing video games.

The average 8 to 18-year-old now spends 7 hours and 38 minutes with media each day. However, to no-one's surprise, the study also found that children with rules or limits on their media use spent considerably less time in front of screens than kids without rules.

TV viewing still represents the bulk of media use by children. One of the most important reasons to limit this screen time is the study's finding that kids who spend more time watching TV perform worse in school. Kids who are heavy users of media (more than 16 hours a day) are more than twice as likely to get mostly C grades or lower than light users of media (less than 3 hours a day).

To limit a child's exposure, parents can impose a variety of rules, but the study found that any TV limits decreased the average media use by almost three hours.

Most parents set limits on what type of shows children are allowed to watch rather than how much time they spend watching. Limits on time spent watching TV are more common in younger children: 47% of 8 to 10-year-olds said their parents set rules. That figure drops to just 16% for 15 to 18-year-olds.

A good place to start imposing limits, according to the study, is to stop leaving the TV on as background noise, and to keep TVs out of the bedroom. Both were found to significantly decrease kids' daily media consumption.

Does the 7 hours 38 minutes of media use per day surprise you? What are the rules in your house? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

Comment by Eileen, posted 1/30/2010, 2:45 PM:

7 hours 38 minutes REALLY surprises me, because with school, homework and dinner I don't think my kids have that much free time. Although, I need to take into consideration that my kids are 10 and 12 - 8-18 is a pretty big range for behavior and expectations. We don't allow tv on school days and limit weekends to morning cartoons. We also set limits of 30 minutes for computer/wii/ipod game time. I want my kids to read and play outside and while they enjoy both they also REALLY like the other.
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