The allure of an electronic screen and the possibilities that come with it are so enticing. Sometimes you feel like just kicking back on the couch and relaxing for three or four hours on a Friday night.

That may well be good for you, but the same rules may not apply to your children”particularly toddlers and infants”and TV watching.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says kids are spending an average of seven hours per day on electronic media. Research proves that may not be wise. Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously put austere limits on the number of electronic gadgets his kids could use at home. Read on to find out why his advice makes sense.

Too Much TV Shortchanges Toddlers

An October 2011 study in the medical journal Pediatrics found that watching nine minutes of a television show instead of drawing for nine minutes significantly impaired the executive function of preschoolers in the short term.

They defined executive function as the ability to focus, problem-solve, and delay immediate gratification in favor of a long-term goal. The negative effect on attention appears to be greater when watching fast-paced shows, which minimizes the importance of this executive function.

Disturbing TV Statistics

Disturbing Statistics On TV Time For Babies

  • 90% of parents report their children under age 2 watch electronic media
  • 33% of kids have a TV in their bedroom by age 3
  • 1 to 2 hours Average time children under age 2 spend watching TV daily
  • 14% of kids betweenn 6 and 23 months watch more than 2 hours of media daily
  • 52 minutes missed interaction time with a parent or sibling per evert hour of TV watched by under age 2

SOURCE: Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics

Too Much TV Causes Developmental Problems In Infants

Consequences of watching electronic media excessively are even more dire for infants. A November 2011 study in Pediatrics says the effects of kids under age 2 watching TV are serious. Even if the program being watched is educational, there is no guarantee the child will understand what he or she is watching.

The study details the following effects engagement with electronic media has on young children:

  • Sleep Becomes Impaired. In children younger than 3 years, television viewing is associated with irregular sleep schedules. This in turn adversely affects their mood, behavior, and learning. Some parents may believe that TV can act as a sleep aid. On the contrary, TV may in fact cause youngsters to struggle to fall asleep, cause anxiety in regard to falling asleep, and shorten sleep duration.
  • Speech Is Delayed. TV exposure of babies between 8 and 16 months has been known to cause impediments in their speech development process. While the research isn't yet strong enough to indicate causality between TV and a long-term delay in speech, there is reason to be concerned.
  • Interference With Cognitive Abilities Occurs. Even if your infant isn't paying attention to the TV show because it's not something she can understand, her interaction with you will be decreased. Having a TV show on in the background will impair the child's memory and reading comprehension.

5 Ways Parents Can Limit Screen TimeThe November 2011 study in Pediatrics noted that part of the problem is that parents simply don't know these facts.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has suggested reducing media time”here are 5 recommendations for parents:

  1. Do not allow children younger than age 2 access to electronic media.
  2. With electronic screens being so embedded into our daily lives, it may be hard to avoid it. Make sure you've got a concrete strategy laid out for what kind of media you allow your child to view.
  3. Avoid putting a TV in your baby's bedroom.
  4. Your own media use can adversely affect your child's development. If you can't afford to miss your favorite show, record it and watch it when your child is not around.
  5. Interpersonal interaction is far more constructive than anything a TV program can provide, even if it is a so-called educational program. This sort of unstructured playtime allows kids to build their problem-solving skills and think creatively.

For more information, also read: Catching ZZZ's: Ways To Help Your Child Fall Asleep