Developing Parenting Skills

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These days, most children are plugged into television and video games long before they start school. Statistics reveal that American children watch more than four hours of television each day. This is twice what the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends.

Children as young as two years old can learn to play video games. In fact, the National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF) say 92 percent of all American children and adolescents, between 2 and 17 years old, play video games. Most of these children live in homes with a video game system.

Statistics on the media habits of children are staggering. A third of all children have video game consoles in their bedrooms. Nearly two-thirds have a television set. Twenty-nine percent have a VCR or DVD player, 16 percent have their own computer, and 4 percent have a cellular phone, iPod, or iPad.

Modern technology — especially interactive television programs, video games, and websites — is a tremendous source of education, information, and entertainment for children of all ages. But too much time in front of a TV screen or computer monitor can have harmful side effects.

The AAP advocates limited television viewing for children and adolescents — one or two hours a day, and only quality programs. The academy recommends no screen time for children under age two.

Parents should encourage children to seek entertainment other than television, video games, and web surfing. Here are a four suggestions:

1. Limit television viewing and video gaming at home. Remove television sets and other electronics from the kids' bedrooms. Turn off the television at meal time, and make it off-limits during homework.

2. Stock the home, especially kids' rooms, with non-screen entertainment. Children's books, board games, puzzles, toys, and hobbies encourage children to do something other than watch TV and play video games.

3. Keep computers in a common area. Limit game and web time, and monitor all Internet activity. Surf online with the kids, then transfer interesting subjects to the real world. For example, turn an online animal game into a trip to the zoo.

4. Ban technology from the weekdays. School, work, sports, and other activities make it hard for families to get together during the week. Saving television and video games for the weekend gives families more time for meals, games, reading, and outdoor activities during the week.

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