TV-Free Families

Impact of TV on Children, AAP Recommendations, TV-Free Strategies

Many families are concerned about the amount of time that children spend watching television each day. Could excess screen time lead to behavior issues?

The amount of TV watched increases a child’s exposure to questionable programming, advertising, and news shows that may not be what parents intend to have their child view. Even in families that stick to children’s programming, there are often commercials or shows that are teaching things that are not in line with the family’s values.

Too Much TV Impacts Children

Television is linked time and again with aggressive behavior in children. The GoKids website reports that watching violent programming during the preschool years is linked to violent and anti-social behavior in boys when they reach ages 7-9. Problems don’t necessarily wait years to show up, though. Young children can be greatly affected by what they see on TV and act it out by increased aggression or other inappropriate behaviors.

In a February 2002 policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics expressed concern that the average American child watches roughly three hours of television a day. Excess television viewing has been linked to increased rates of obesity, behavior problems, poor self-image, and precocious sexuality.

American Academy of Pediatrics Recommendations

The AAP recommends that children under age two avoid television viewing altogether. Children older than two should be limited to no more than one or two hours of high-quality programming per day. They further recommend that television sets be removed from children’s bedrooms.

Strategies to become TV Free

The Center for Screen-Time Awareness sponsors a national Turn Off week each year. The organization encourages families to go screen-free for one week. Screen-free includes television screens, computer screens, and gaming system screens. Many schools and libraries host local events and give prizes for children who participate in TV-free activities. National Turn Off week makes a great jumping-off point for a family to commit to living TV-free.

Alternatively, a gradual reduction in television suits some families better. Cut TV out in the mornings, but continue to allow it in the afternoon. Once the children are used to finding other activities for the TV-free hours, increase the time that the television is turned off.

It’s easy to turn a blind eye to the television programs that children are exposed to, but it’s worth it to take a second look at what is on the screen in your home. Be aware of the effects of too much TV, specifically violent programming, on children. Consider following the AAP recommendations and use strategies, like participating in the national Turn Off week, to become TV free.


  • American Academy of Pediatrics website, Policy Statement, Originally Printed in Pediatrics Vol 107 No 2 February 2002, pages 423-426; website accessed March 23, 2009.
  • The Center for Screen-Time Awareness website, accessed March 23, 2009.
  • GoKids website, Aggression in Young Boys Linked to Violent Television in Preschool, website accessed March 23, 2009.