Mom vs. Dad: The TV debate

May 15, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. ET

With hundreds of channels out there, you never know what you're going to find on TV. And as an adult, that's a great scenario. But for a kid, is it?

Sure, there are channels devoted solely for children's programming, but what about the other stations and the commercials? You come from the school of thought that you trust your children to make the right decisions about what they watch on TV. But your spouse thinks it should be regulated — if they even watch it at all. So who's right? And how do you come to an agreement about whether or not your children should watch TV? Read on for suggestions for how to find a middle ground.

Do your homework

Vivian Kirkfield, parenting speaker and author of Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking, says step one is for parents to do their research. "I would advise Mom and Dad to read some of the recent articles on this topic and consider sources such as The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) which recommends parents limit screen time to two hours per day for children over the age of two."

Don't be a couch potato

Kirkfield stresses the importance of practicing what you preach.

"Children are watching their parents and modeling themselves after them. If parents sit on the couch watching TV all evening, kids will want to do that also."

Don't let the TV raise your child

"One important consideration that parents need to remember is when they allow their children to watch hours of TV every day, they are handing their position of influence over to the sponsors and producers of whatever shows their kids are watching and why would they want to do that?" says Kirkfield.

Consider your child's day as a whole

"Has the child been sitting in school all day and will then have to sit again for a period of time doing homework? Perhaps TV is not the best choice for recreational time. Why not take a family walk or play a game of catch as a family. If, on the other hand, it is the weekend and the family has had an all-day physically active outing at the park or playground, sitting and watching a TV show for a short time in the evening might be appropriate," suggests Kirkfield.

Pull the plug and encourage creativity

One option is to nix TV entirely. "According to the studies, children who are watching more than two hours of TV each day are already at risk for future health problems. My advice is to “pull the plug” and encourage kids to play with things like blocks and puzzles, games like Monopoly and Scrabble, paper, crayons, markers, clay... these are the items that engage a child’s mind and allow creative expression," suggests Kirkland.

Is TV really bad for children? >>

Consider the positives

Dr. John Duffy, author of The Available Parentreminds parents that TV is not all bad. "There are some positives to TV watching. When watching as a family, for example, TV can stimulate conversation easily. For parents reluctant to engage in the sex talk, for example, the average episode of a sitcom provides several opportunities for discussion fodder. As I write this, my son and I are watching a Chicago Cubs game. We are talking as we go, and I have to say, I would not trade these moments watching these games and talking baseball with him for anything.

Educational TV has positive effect on toddlers and preschoolers >>

Whatever you decide... present a united front

Once Mom and Dad have weighed all the facts and decided how much TV their child should be allowed to watch, it's important for them to be on the same pages. Stresses Kirkfield, "Parents need to present a united front when setting rules and limits for children and TV."

More on kids and TV

Kids and TV: Break the addiction
Kids and TV: How much is too much?
Is your child watching too much TV at daycare?