Previous   Next

How much TV should children be allowed to watch each day?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on May 25, 2006

Browse the archives

Photo of Sandra Mayle

“Probably an hour a day. It’s good for children to get out and get some exercise; otherwise they get fat.”

Photo of Mike Johnson

“Less than an hour, because they should be reading, talking to their family, running and playing or finding some other way to expand their minds.”

Photo of Nancy Fleming

“I’m going to go with a program or two, so a half an hour to an hour. I’ve never been a TV fan myself. I really like being outside, and I think it comes from playing outside a lot when I was a kid.”

Photo of Peter Krofta

“I’ll say 30 minutes to an hour. That’s how much I watched when I was little. They should have their days filled with other activities.”

Related story


jonas 12 years ago

Why make a time-limit? Why not devote our resources to making a seamlessly interractive virtual reality, so our children can have the experience of doing something active while not actually having to expend precious energy doing anything at all.

I think it'll look something like this.

Energy. Precious energy!

Linda Aikins 12 years ago

It varies. Sometimes the Sopranos is 45 minutes; sometimes it is 58 minutes. I think you would have to allow for that.

And there's such great TV on these days too. Wow. Tough question.

sgtwolverine 12 years ago

I guess it depends on how much time the kids are spending on the computer, too. At some point they'll be spending the majority of their free time in front of a screen, and that's just not good.

lunacydetector 12 years ago

if there is a sponge bob marathon running, it's hard to say.

paladin 12 years ago

If I was a Kid, and in many ways I am, and had to live in a house with parents who allowed me to watch TV, or not, I would be someplace else, anyplace else, other than there with them. Probably at a friends house watching TV there. If they did not allow me to leave the house, I would escape and find someplace else to watch TV, whatever I wanted and for as long as I wanted. And to play VIDEO GAMES! Oh, the horror.

irnmadn88 12 years ago

A television is an appliance and should only be turned on when necessary, not used as a digital babysitter or surrogate parent.

Kids should learn to be active, creative, and to use their own imagination instead of being spoon fed entertainment.

RonBurgandy 12 years ago

I watched a lot of tv when I was a kid and turned out just fine. I was also outside playing a lot as well.

An hour a day? Please. Kids can be active and still watch more than that.

Sgt makes a good point.

sunflower_sue 12 years ago

I'm adopting my friend's strategy for TV/computer time this summer. Each week the kiddies will get $10. An hour of TV/computer costs $1. They can spend all their money or not watch and save it. Probably at the end of the summer they will have watched 10 hours of TV each week and it will have ended up costing me nothing. We will see what happens. Hopefullt they will find more ways to be creative with their time. Right now we are off to the park to exercize/play. D@mn gas prices!

sgtwolverine 12 years ago

Sue, can they use the money in later weeks? If they stay away from the tv for two weeks, could they have 30 hours in the third week? Or is it just money after the week is done?

You know, that could become profitable for you if you let them go over the 10 hours, but charged them $5/hr for each hour over.

Redzilla 12 years ago

Maybe an amount equivalent to the amount of time the kid spends engaged in non-computer, non-TV playing. If the kid plays two hours, let her watch two hours of TV. The only real harm seems to come when people treat the TV like a babysitter. The TV can't love your child or teach her how to act like a decent person.

KSChick1 12 years ago

what does blonde have to do with it?

Ceallach 12 years ago

Good idea, friend of sunflower_sue. If they are out of money by Wednesday they will learn to use their resources wisely. Just be prepared to ignore whining, begging, pleading and gnashing of teeth. Although I think most parents grow immune to those tactics fairly early in their children's lives.

The daily allotment may not teach kids the value of "saving up" for a movie or TV special they are wanting to see.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years ago

It's mostly about content. If they are watching 'The Sopranos'... they should only watch the opening credits, and with the mute on. There are some really good programs for kids on TV that are actually worth the time. While I nearly weep when I see the "never unplugged" college students of today (cell phone duct-taped to their heads), and believe that this is a generation that is suffering from having too much electronic stimuli at an early age, I think the value of the content MUST be taken into account.

Studies have shown strong links between ADHD and kids who are constantly plugged in to electronic stimuli. They tend to be disruptive in school because they have never known what it's like to just sit and be calm. Some of our kids are REALLY suffering from too much electronic babysitting.

If it's truly JUNK TV that's being watched, then it needs to be limited and monitored. Sue's idea above sounds great! Very creative. It's a "restriction" that is somewhat self-imposed by the kids. Very smart.

craigers 12 years ago

Sgt, what do you think about roll-over or fair and flexible TV plans? That would teach kids a valuable lesson about those dang overage charges.

canyon_wren 12 years ago

I haven't had TV for over 40 years, so my daughter grew up without it. She was outdoors playing all the time and I also read aloud to her right up through college. She does feel she missed out a little when she hears friends talking about certain shows they used to watch, but is relatively contemptous of the shows she sees now (she and her husband have it on most of the time).

I agree that there are lots of good things on TV, but when you are used to the peacefulness of not having it, it does drive you crazy. And the stupidity of so much of it is depressing. On the occasions I do have a chance to watch it, I find the commercials pretty entertaining--certainly more clever than most of the regular shows--but, after watching quite a bit (at my daughter's) during the Olympics, I can understand how a little bit of any commercial, regardless of how clever, can go a LONG ways!

I would think it is about a toss-up as to whether kids' time should be spent watching TV or messing with the computer, and it sounds like a lot of the computer (video?) games would be much more detrimental than the TV shows. But most of all, it is just so sad that most kids don't "play outside" like we used to.

sgtwolverine 12 years ago

Ooh, I like the ideas of rollover or fair and flexible TV plans. Keep your unused TV minutes, or let your plan adapt itself to your usage. Good stuff.

(By the way, I am on Cingular, so my unused minutes roll over. I talk far less on my phone than I did last year, so I have a huge number of rollover minutes now. Maybe I should move my plan back down.)

omb, that is a brilliant idea. Bonus points for the kids if the title includes BOTH ninja and pirate.

sgtwolverine 12 years ago

I really think if kids are watching more than 24 hours of TV a day, there may be a serious problem. But I might be wrong.

Tony Kisner 12 years ago


I loved actual on the street responses. This is what I think, but this is what I do, or will do.

If you have a TV and you have kids they are likely to be watching it a lot.

The best way to get kids off TV is to set it out on the curb on trash day, I have thought about it but doing it is a whole different story.

olmsted78 12 years ago

T.V., the most powerful spell on earth.

gphawk89 12 years ago

Easy_Does_It - I did just that a few years ago (literally threw the TV out). I missed it for a while, but got over it. Try it - It's amazing how much spare time you'll have for exercise, hobbies, enjoying the outdoors, etc. I now have a TV again after being set-less for about seven years (wife wanted one) and I find it just plain annoying. I hope to limit the kids to as little as possible (preferably none).

beatrice 12 years ago

It depends on whether they are skipping school or not.

Gootsie: very funny!

thunderbutt: give it a rest.

sgtwolverine 12 years ago

Hey, where's ms_c? They found a Canadian for this question. This must be OTS, International Edition.

Also, Edmonton is absolutely destroying Anaheim in the playoffs. Go Oilers.

sunflower_sue 12 years ago

RI, Yes, my friend is blonde, but I would not presume to call her a control freak...but she may be married to one?!? She has lots of good ideas.

Sgt, no roll over! It's just money after the end of the week. So far, we've had no TV today. I took the kiddies to the park and they attempted to play tennis while I walked. Then to the library and grocery store. They are cooking dinner tonight so they had to get what they needed to make it. (Hope they remembered everything!) They want to go swimming later so they are working in the house now to "buy" pool time. My oldest has her own little "business" so she is working at that and my youngest is cleaning her room (a never ending saga). Guess i should get back to work, too.

BunE 12 years ago

Children should watch at least 14 hours a day of Television, drink 8 glasses of gravy a day, and play wih loaded, unsafed handguns as they gently fall asleep, listening to Rob Zombie on the CD player on the edge of the tub.

Janet Lowther 12 years ago

This fall I will be celebrating 20 years without TV in the house.

TV addiction seems to be rampant: As I understand it, one of the more severe punishments for prisoners is taking away their TV. In some states where the legislature has proposed denying prisoners TV, the department of corrections has lobbied very heavily against those proposals: Prisoners denied their TV fix are much harder to deal with.

All in all, I'd say that television is the opiate of the masses.

Grundoon Luna 12 years ago

Depends on what it is. If he wanted to watch the History or Discovery channels, as much as he wants.

sgtwolverine 12 years ago

My favorite quote about TV:

"Television is a snake so big, only God could kill it."

But I'm not anti-TV. I just think it's best in moderation. I keep thinking of the studies that have declared that brain activity slows significantly when watching TV.

sanders 12 years ago

I find in ironic that all the people here who shun TV and don't have it in there house have plenty of time to play on the internet and play around on message boards. :)

beatrice 12 years ago

sgtw: I'm with you. Moderation is the key. TV is a tool that can provide entertainment as well as important information when necessary. Think of tornado warnings -- very helpful (I sure don't miss those, by the way), or something like political debates. What would the conspiracy theorists have to go on if they couldn't actually see that box-shaped square on President Bush's back during the 2004 debates? We can learn a lot from what we see on television and we can take part vicariously to a much larger community. I'll never forget the Columbia space shuttle tragedy or the images of the horror of 9-11. I was shocked and I cried at what I was seeing, yet I knew that I was not experiencing this alone, even if I was by myself at the time. I knew that there were people all around the country doing the same thing, watching the same images at the same time.

So, as I see it, people who proudly boast of not owning a tv are really just claiming that they wish to remain ignorant of the possible worthwhile benefits of television ownership because they don't know how to handle or control an electric tool in their home.

Confrontation 12 years ago

Maybe someone should tell Ms. Sandra Mayle that being anorexic is just as bad as being fat.

ms_canada 12 years ago

Hi sarge - yey! go Oilers. what exciting games. another one tonight here in good old Edmonton. Our fans are going wild. You may know that I have a grandson in hockey, plays for Seattle Thunderbirds. TV and kids. My grandkids are not really into TV too much. More into sports stuff. But I believe that time is not so much the elemental thing, it is content that would concern me as a parent in this day and age. This is funny, I know of a little girl, now age 5, whose parents would punish her by putting her in her crib and put tapes of Spongebob Square Pants on screen. Now what about that for punishment. :o) Cruel and unusual if you ask me. Parents should have been prosecuted. :o)

gphawk89 12 years ago

How many folks here participated in TV turn-off week this year? How many have even heard of it?

Bigpop 12 years ago

well the house I just left that's all they did was t.v., video games. It did not make for a good home. The 9 year old thinks he is a gagster that is always in trouble. The 15 year old just wants games and t.v. The mom,wow. Will hide in her room so she can see her shows. It is crazy. Though if your life is not good you can always hide in t.v.

Ceallach 12 years ago

Bigbop has painted a sad, but true picture of many American homes.

rightthinker, if indeed a child is "heavy as a truck" the parents cannot blame the tv for that problem. Same goes for grades, too many parents let anyone and/or anything do the parenting while they live the life they please.

Linda Endicott 12 years ago

I watched TV as a kid, though it was usually only a couple of hours a day. More on Sat. mornings, when the cartoons were on. Back in those days there was no Nickelodeon, or cartoons during the day, except maybe those local shows (like Whizzo), which were on in the afternoon after school but we didn't watch them all the time. I think I turned out okay. I also grew up on Bugs Bunny and Wyle E. Coyote, and I never once had the urge to throw an animal out the window, or bop someone with an anvil.

But then, we rarely JUST watched TV. Even when it was on, and even when we watched it, we were also doing other things at the same time, like jigsaw puzzles or crosswords, or playing games, or dolls. Though of course I've known people that find it difficult to multi-task like that. We also played outside a great deal.

My daughter had TV available as much as she wanted, but even though I didn't limit it, she chose not to watch it much. She just didn't much care for TV. She watched cartoons in the afternoons after school, and in the evenings the TV was on, but sometimes we were just listening to it, like radio. I read to her every night at bedtime, and we also sat and played board games or with her dolls together in the evenings. She was in the gifted program at school. She was also skinny as a rail. Still is. She still doesn't watch much TV.

I watch it every day. Though I'm usually on the History Channel, or National Geographic, or A&E, stuff like that. Usually documentaries and news channels. Local stations when the weather is bad, though there are few network shows that I care to watch. Idol who??

I usually always have the TV on, but I'm not always watching it. Just kind of a noisemaker, I guess. Especially living alone, I just don't like total quiet. It drives me nuts. Probably comes from growing up in a household with three kids an constant noise.

And again, I find plenty of time, when I'm not at work, for hobbies. I usually do my hobbies while I'm watching TV. People claim it's impossible to do both at the same time, and pay attention to both, but I do it all the time.

I admit that most of the exercise I get is either at work, or with housework at home. But it seems to be enough. I do spend some time outside, but I don't get along well with heat, sun, and bugs.

sgtwolverine 12 years ago

ms_c, I'm normally a Wings fan, but obviously, they found another way to underachieve. But don't get me wrong -- I'm not taking anything away from the Oilers' wins. They seriously outplayed the Wings, no doubt. And then they won another series, and are one game away from another series victory. That's impressive, especially as an 8 seed.

Anyway, since the Wings flopped, and since the Oilers are the only Canadian team left in the playoffs, I am now an Oilers fan. It would be nice to see them wrap it up at home tonight.

SpeedRacer 12 years ago

My 8 year old nephew watches "The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy" and "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends" (which I also enjoy watching with him) before school and "Zatch Bell" after school. Otherwise, he is occupied with physical activities, homework or chores. Just like adults, children need a period of escapism in a little harmless tv. I am sometimes rather surprised at the content of some of the kid shows on TV for their violence and crudity. However, when I was a child we pretty much only had old movie intermission cartoons which were, in retrospect, quite violent.

Linda Aikins 12 years ago

Beatrice - good post. I agree totally.

We had TV all the time growing up, as did my kids. It was our family activity back in the old days - I have such fond memories of my dad (with that big smile on his wonderful face) going into the kitchen and getting a saucepan to put in front of the TV when Wyatt Earp came on. He didn't want "Wyatt" to "Earp" on the carpet.

You just don't get that in a non-TV house.

canyon_wren 12 years ago

Contrary to what Sanders says, though I am one of those who "shuns" TV (not really) I certainly don't have a whole lot of extra time to fool around with message boards or play with the Internet. I DO confess to playing some Cribbage with a CD-ROM in the evening but at least that demands something of me, as contrasted to just sitting there glued to the "boob tube."

Beatrice is right--there are lots of "momentous occasions" that one can participate in vicariously by watching TV. But I certainly don't remain ignorant of TV's benefits--where you get "some news" (what they want you to know)--and I read 5 newspapers online every day, so am not really that uninformed.

I, too, live alone, but prefer silence to the constant prattle and "Duh!" lines on most TV sitcoms, etc. But to each his own--obviously, people can learn to tolerate almost anything!

Linda Aikins 12 years ago

Wow Canyon - you read 5 newspapers online every day? That's a whole lotta bunch of internet time. Way more than I could tolerate!

Linda Aikins 12 years ago

I love the Weather Channel! Maybe I could be Katie when I grow up. Or maybe she could be my mommy.

I bet inmate likes the show Prison Break, and Hannibal loves the food channels.

sunflower_sue 12 years ago

I still haven't made any of my money back yet. The funny thing is: The kiddies are finding things to do TOGETHER! Weird! We will see how long this lasts. Right now I'm thinking my wise friend could actually be a genius...who knew?

Someone asked about TV free week...NO WAY! (At least not during Survivor season.) :o)

canyon_wren 12 years ago

Actually it doesn't take that long, except for the Salt Lake Tribune. Since I only have dial-up, and not anything faster, it's quite a process to read that one. Sometimes I just have to skip it because the wait is so frustrating, even though it is so well organized as far as the contents are concerned.

I don't real "important" papers like the Wall Street Journal, NY Times etc., though some friends pass along good things from those. I read a newspaper from California, the LJW, the Columbia (Mo. Tribune) and another KS paper--just places I've lived. I can't stand to be online all that long, myself!

mom_of_three 12 years ago

There are some things you would see on tv that you may never seen in person, such as the Olympics, Kentucky Derby, etc.
But you have to remember when we were kids, before cable exploded, there were only 3 or 4 channels. Now, there are dozens with basic cable. And I love the cooking and home improvement shows.
We have certain channels blocked, and give the kids chores to do. The younger two will play with friends and the older one will read books constantly.

Ceallach 12 years ago

When I was a kid we were lucky to receive the big three: ABC, CBS, and NBC. Personally, I love the cable channels (don't care much for the big three anymore:) except of course CBS for the CSIs, NCIS and Criminal Minds, other than that I'm usually watching SciFi, History, Discovery and even Animal Planet. I live alone and unlike an earlier poster, I like having the TV going in the background as I clean, work on the computer, etc.

Richard Heckler 12 years ago

Our youngest loves the HGTV(Home and Garden) and really enjoys the interior design shows.

Very little TV in our household however renting movies is is acceptable. It just so happens old musicals are popular.

Bottom line is content. Mr. Rogers has been important around our house.

canyon_wren 12 years ago

I have to admit that one of the reasons I don't have TV now is that it costs so much where I live. Just the basic channels cost something like $30 a month, because it is brought into our area by microwave or something like that. Anything extra makes it quite a bit more expensive. I had to make a choice between that and having the Internet.

I know a lot of those extra channels are great. And TV was a real family thing when I was growing up--we would gather and watch "What's My Line?", etc., while eating popcorn on Sunday nights. Also, I would enjoy watching college football and basketball if I had it now (my husband didn't like sports, but my dad was a sportscaster/newscaster, and we had a college game on the radio every Saturday afternoon in the fall). I just have too many other things I like to do now, to give time to TV, as well. I am like some of the other posters--I would have to be doing something else like quilting or even reading, to be able to sit and watch a show.

Linda Aikins 12 years ago

ok. Can I have a TV of my own so I can watch the Doppler Channel all day?

boomersooner4ever 12 years ago

were amish we dont have TV, only internet

Ceallach 12 years ago

Ship Channel!! That is one of the best today, bob :)

wren, my grandfather LOVED KC Athletics baseball!! When they were playing he had several radios around the house, all tuned to the game, so he could move all through the house with whatever he was doing and never miss a play.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.