The first day of school is right around the corner ... and, inevitably, sometime after that will be the first sick day. Kids are excellent germ-sharers, and eventually, one of yours is going to come down with something.
When that happens, the classic parent move is to get them snuggled up on the couch with tissues, cold drinks, blankets, stuffed animals ... and TV. Lots and lots of TV. Our moms probably did it with us and so we do it with our kids; after all, it's a good way to keep them quiet and it's not like a day of cartoons is going to do them any harm.
Or will it?
Sad to say, the answer is yes. OK, one or two days of lying on the couch probably won't hurt them, especially since a sick kiddo is likely sleeping a good bit of that time. But according to a 2009 study, kids who watched 90 to 330 minutes of TV per day (that's five-and-a-half hours!) had significantly higher blood pressure than kids who were about as sedentary but spent more time on the computer, playing games, or reading than watching TV. And other studies have tied excessive TV viewing to problems with attention, obesity, and aggressive behavior.
What I have not seen studied is whether what they watch matters. There's plenty of terrifying data out there about how violence and sex on TV affect kids -- but what if they're watching shows that pretty much don't have those things? Is a day spent watching Yo Gabba Gabba and Wizards of Waverly Place really as bad as a day of unsupervised Jerry Springer and soap operas?
Even "good" shows might reinforce behavior we don't want; for example, some of the sitcoms aimed at school-age children depict parents as clueless and play their kids mouthing off to them for humor. Many of them place a lot of emphasis on relationships and dating, which might be a little "advanced" for the younger ones. And of course, there's the endless stream of commercials on non-public TV.
All these scary statistics have definitely made me rethink my own anything-goes attitude toward my children's TV habits -- even when they're home from school with the flu.
Do you let your kids watch unlimited TV when they're sick?
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