How Much Is Too Much TV for Kids?

TV viewing should be just one (sparingly used) way to occupy kids when working.

Rear view of a girl watching a television
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When it comes to TV viewing, every parent wonders: How much is too much TV? Left to their own devices, many kids will make TV viewing their sole vocation. And that would definitely be too much! But is letting the kids watch sometimes so you can get some work done too much TV? Probably not if TV viewing is only one (sparingly used) method to keep kids busy while working from home.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only 1-2 hours of TV viewing per day for children.

But, let’s face it, there are a lot more hours in the day than that, and when kids are in front of the television, we can get a lot of work done.

So using TV viewing as a babysitter can be very tempting for work-at-home moms and all parents. But I have found that too much TV viewing is not only bad for the kids, it can actually be counterproductive from work standpoint. If the kids watch too much TV, I actually get less done.

Becoming the TV Police

A limited amount of TV (in that 1-2 hour range) may be fine. But who makes sure that TV viewing is, in fact, limited and who is keeping an eye on what they are watching? Unless you have outside child care, it’s likely you. And that’s not easy to do while you work.

If you do allow your kids to watch TV while you work, the TV time rules, which are part of a larger set of work-at-home ground rules, should clearly spell out what kids are allowed to watch and for how long.

Allowing TV viewing while you work and then limiting it later is an approach that could still mean a lot more than two hours of TV viewing. Also, it doesn’t allow for TV viewing together with your child or co-viewing. 

Learning Independent Play

Perhaps one of the biggest pitfalls of allowing too much TV viewing while you work is that kids don’t develop the ability to find their own fun.

And as soon as the TV is off they turn to you for entertainment.

Kids of work-at-home moms need to learn to play independently. The passive nature of TV viewing can make the transition to a more active type of play difficult. And kids in multi-child households must be able to resolve conflicts, but TV viewing often brings more conflicts over what to watch. And guess who ends up being the referee.

I find that TV viewing is most effective at keeping kids occupied while I work when used in small doses, on special occasions like snow days or in accordance with some work at home ground rules.