Is TV Bad for Your Toddler?

Are you worried about your toddler watching too much TV? 

Whether on a computer, mobile phone or television, if your toddler is glued to the screen after returning home from a day at nursery or at the weekends, it might be wise to limit their screen time. 

You might be thinking ‘where’s the harm in a little TV time’, but evidence points to screen viewing having long-term negative effects. These include poor language development, reading skills, short term memory, difficulty sleeping, and short attention span.


Sedentary time: What does it mean for your toddler?

Sedentary time is the time your toddler spends sitting or lying down (not including when they sleep). For example, this could be when they are restrained in a car seat or stroller, or when they are sitting watching TV.

According to KFL&A Public Health, being less sedentary can help toddlers to:

  • Develop social skills
  • Manage their feelings
  • Improve language and attention
  • Maintain a healthy body weight


Is TV bad for toddlers?

The WHO advises that children aged 1-4 should have less than an hour of screen time per day (or less, where possible). This is why too much TV can be harmful to toddlers:

1. It increases the sedentary time

We know that sedentary time should be limited for toddlers, and watching television will only increase it. Once your toddler gets into a habit of having this sedentary screen time, it’s only going to get harder to reduce this.

2. It can delay language development 

This might come as a surprise, but watching TV can actually delay language development. This is because your toddler is having less interaction with you and those living around them. Instead, they are focused on the colours and noises coming from the television, as opposed to your conversations with others or them.

Typically, parents speak around 940 words an hour when a toddler is around. With the TV on, this drops by 770 words, which ultimately means less learning. 

3. Your toddler won’t learn anything

You might have been surprised that your toddler won’t learn to speak using the TV. This is because your toddler’s brain is still developing, and they are not actually capable of relating the noises and pictures from the TV to real life.

It may appear that they are very engaged in what is in front of them, but they are really just mesmerised by the bright colours and interesting sounds. 

Children are programmed to learn from communicating with other people, so they require face-to-face interactions. Everything from facial expressions to your tone of voice has a part to play in learning.

4. TV during dinner time is linked to childhood obesity

One situation in which parents like to let their children watch TV is during dinner or meal times. It might be tempting to stick on some television to get them to finish their food, but this can actually cause longer-term issues.

When your child becomes used to associating TV with mealtimes, this will become a habit and, later on, it will become harder for them to watch TV without having a snack or meal. Therefore, watching TV during meal times is linked to childhood obesity.


How to limit TV time for toddlers

So, how can you actually limit TV time for toddlers? 

1. Always make sure that you mirror healthy electronic use. If you’re sitting in front of the TV in front of your toddler, they are going to copy your behaviour.

2. Set regular TV time every day, and try not to make this before they go to bed. The middle of the day before or after lunch is always a good start, and try limiting this time to half an hour.

3. It can be easy to limit TV time by switching off the TV at the end of a show, rather than leaving it on in the background. This will prevent your toddler from getting upset.

4. Spend time doing other things to keep your toddler engaged in a fun way! This could be playing with them, doing some learning-related games or reading to your toddler with fun books for them to look at.


Our approach at Little Angels

At Little Angels, we organise the day around learning and healthy child development. Along with activities such as cooking and reading, we encourage children to explore and socialise through play. To learn more about a typical day at Little Angels, download our brochure here.