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Many parents choose to let their kids watch TV from a very early age, and in many families, babies and toddlers spend several hours a day in front of the TV.

This habit has become so widely spread that it even seems to be a normal way of parenting.

Letting a young child watch TV seems a perfect solution for allowing the parents to have more time for other things they need to manage, and the screen can quickly become a “reliable” babysitter.

This is why toddlers and preschoolers in the US watch an average of 32 hours of TV every week, much more than they should!

This article is not meant to judge parents in any way.

It’s just an invitation to see things from a different perspective. Letting a young child watch TV may seem beneficial for many parents, but the truth is that studies revealed a different reality.

negative effects of watching tv

I want to invite you to read some of the results of the studies made in the last years and to consider the negative effects of watching TV on young children.

I truly believe that finding out more about these studies could make you think twice about the time your kids spend in front of the TV every day.

For me, this information was eye-opening, and I hope it would be helpful for you too!

The negative effects of letting young children watch TV

Research shows that children under the age of 2 (even 3 in some studies) should not watch TV at all because it doesn’t bring them any benefits.

Instead, it’s interfering with their brain development.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children under age 2 should not watch any TV and kids over age 2 should be limited to an hour or at most two hours a day and only watch quality and age-appropriate programs.

These are the negative effects that TV has on young children:

  • TV changes the way the brain develops and can cause harm that will impact kids for their whole life.
  • TV shortens a child’s attention span. It makes learning more difficult. This effect may not be visible immediately, but studies show that kids who watched TV when they were 2 years old are significantly more likely to have learning issues at the age of 7.
  • TV overstimulates the children and makes them develop hyperactivity that affects their life. They are used to fast-moving images and loud sounds, and they don’t find much interest in other activities that are quieter and less engaging. (The more TV a child watches, the more likely they are to develop ADD and ADHD symptoms)
  • TV can cause more aggression in young children, especially if they are watching inappropriate programs. (The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Kids can get to imitate the violence they see on TV and accept violence as a way to solve problems.)
  • TV offers a passive viewing perspective that bypasses the need for imagination and makes the children less creative. (They don’t need to imagine anything, the content is ready and “served” on the screen.)
  • TV becomes addictive very quickly, and the fact that children watch TV at an early age sets up a habit they will likely follow for their entire lives.
how to reduce screen time

photo credit: Morrowind /

In the last years, many “educational programs” for young children appeared on TV, and they were promoted as very beneficial for kids. But studies show that kids under 2 do not benefit from them.

They even have the opposite effect and cause negative effects on brain development. Children are programmed to learn from interacting with other people and not from this kind of video entertainment.

A TED talk about what happens when young children watch TV

As I mentioned earlier in this post, screen time interferes with children’s normal brain development.

Several studies show this negative impact, but I think that a short video is more explicative than a lot of figures and graphics, so I would like to invite you to watch a 16-minute TEDx talk on this subject.

The TED talk is held by Dimitri Christakis – the director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

He is also a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital and a professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Washington.

In the past years, he has investigated how early experiences affect children and tried to teach parents how to improve the early learning environments they offer to their kids.

He studied the way TV impacts children and spoke about a part of his research in this TEDx talk.

My favorite phrase from the speech is a piece of wonderful advice about the way we should approach early childhood: Change the beginning, and you can change the whole story! 

I hope that all this information will be useful for you and it will help you make the best decision about letting your children watch TV! A change now could mean a lot for your child’s future!

Screen time for kids: There are many negative effects of watching tv that can affect young children's development. Here is everything a mom needs to know before taking a decision about how much screen time a young child needs.  --- Limiting screen time | Research about screen time
negative effects of watching tv

negative effects of watching tv
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  1. Victoria Schneider says:

    Love your insight and research on this. We decided very early to not let our son watch TV until he was older and even then to monitor it with strict rules and time limits.
    I am definitely going to give that TED talk a listen now.
    victoria |

  2. My husband and I have actually been talking a lot about this concept. I started to notice behavioral issues in my 2 year old and I instantly correlated it to the amount of tv that she watches. We’ve recently cut back to 2 30 minute episodes throughout the day and noticed a great improvement in her attention span and behavior

  3. What a great article. There is so much to think about before you let your kids watch TV.

  4. Great article, Raluca! I am also planning a series of articles on this subject. I think it would be great to have this article translated 😉