In Response to My Previous Question, What Are Your Views on TV Time for 3Yr Old?

Updated on January 04, 2017
M.C. asks from Noblesville, IN
16 answers

I got a lot of answers stating that my 3 yr old daughter shouldn't be watching TV and I'd like some more advice or views on that specific topic. She is my one and only child so as she gets older I run into a lot of things (such as TV time) that I feel divided on since I have no previous child experience. One part of me doesn't mind if she watches it, and another part of me wants to keep it off. I watched TV all the time as a kid so I've sort of done that with her.

Now, she does have her own TV, but her time watching it isn't constant. I know pediatricians recommend 2 hours of TV a day as the maximum, with it divided into 10 minute increments if possible. We alternate which TV she watches on. Her room is where she prefers to watch but sometimes she wants to cuddle up on the couch in the living room instead. With that in mind, she doesn't "actively" watch. Meaning she doesn't sit there glued to the TV like a zombie. She'll watch for maybe 5-10 mins whenever her favorite episode comes on or something catches her attention, then ignore it and go back to playing with her toys, then a little while later she'll watch for another 10 mins, then go back to her toys and she does this on and off throughout the day. If she hasn't paid any attention to it for more then an hour then I let it turn off on it's own (we use the sleep timer a lot, and Amazon/Netflix will stop playing after three episodes).

We do have dedicated "TV time" on the days where she wants to watch a movie like Frozen or The Little Mermaid. That's usually the time when she cuddles up with me on the couch and we relax. We don't let her watch regular cable TV. She watches her cartoons on Netflix/Amazon Prime so there's no commercials or things like that and I can pick and choose exactly what she watches (usually Bubble Guppies or Mickey Mouse). I was just wondering what other moms did regarding TV time and if I should change her TV time or schedule?

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answers from Los Angeles on

My daughter is 4.5 and I let her have 30 minutes of screen time per day. This can be Amazon/Netflix, games, or a combination of those. When she was 3, it was still 30 minutes per day, but it wasn't everyday.



answers from Baton Rouge on

My kid watched tv when she was little - Sesame Street, Barney, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Wishbone, and Reading Rainbow, Animaniacs, Power Rangers, videotapes of her favorite movies.
I also read to her, and she played with toys as well.
She was reading independently at three, and tested gifted and talented when she started school.

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answers from New York on

It doesn't sound like she's watching too much. But, I would shut it off if it's just playing in the background and she's not actually watching it. If she wants to watch a show, then have her sit and watch the show.

We are a 1 TV family. It's in the living room. We do not want TVs in the kids' bedrooms--personal choice. Some kids are super responsible with a TV in their room. Other kids will binge watch whatever all hours of the night. Obviously, your kid isn't binge watching yet, but just something to keep in mind. My kids basically use their room for sleeping and dressing. They have a playroom. Please do not let her watch TV to fall asleep--my sister did this with her kids and ruined their sleep habits for years!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

The more important issue is not how much tv she's watching, but the precedent that you're setting about personal electronics. When she's 7, or 12, or 15, you'll have established the custom that she has her own electronics, and that's where the problem will lie. She'll go from expecting to have her own tv to demanding her own phone, her own computer, her own laptop, her own internet connection, and believe me, you'll wish you hadn't gotten her accustomed to having her own electronics. You'll drive yourself nuts trying to monitor apps, internet usage, computer history, and trying to limit computer/smartphone/laptop usage.

So if you start creating some boundaries NOW, you might have fewer problems in the tween years. No 3 year old should have a personal tv. Tv time should be as you described - settling down together with a snack to watch a favorite movie, in the living room or family room. It's ok to let a child have a little tv time, with appropriate cartoons or favorite shows, in full view of the family.

And quiet time should not be screen time. That also establishes a potentially harmful habit. Quiet, relaxing time should be with a book - the real kind, not the electronic kind. Or quiet time should be with a relaxing craft, like knitting, or sculpting with clay. Or writing in a journal, or drawing, or coloring. Right now you're teaching her that quiet time must be electronic, with a screen.

Just think "down the road what practices do I want my daughter to have" and "what precedent do I want to establish" and you'll be on the right track.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

We didn't do much TV, but when you count in other screen time, well, I'd be a hypocrite if I said no TV. At age 3, my little one was probably getting an hour or two of screen time a day, a little on the TV and the rest on the family iPad or his Leapster. And although I read to him every day, I think that he learned to read thanks to Super Why.

Where I do differ with you is where that happens. We agreed, from the beginning, that all screen time happens in the living room and so we have just 1 TV in the house. With an open floorplan house, means that it's within earshot of an adult at all times. Yes, you can easily choose which cartoons your child watches on the TV in her room at age 3. But we wanted to set a precedent for later. If you allow screen time in her room, how are you going to keep an eye on what she watches when she's 9 or 13? By putting all screen time in the living room, not only do I know what my kids are watching on TV, I can hear what's happening on the YouTube videos my kids are watching on their iPods and I can look over their shoulders easily to see what is on the computer screen when they are playing on it. This way I can step in if I'm concerned about the content.

ETA: To put this and my response to your previous question a different way - I think that what you may be missing, from my perspective, is the long view on parenting - setting up rules and expectations now, at age 3, that will make things easier during the tweens and teens. I don't pretend to know everything, but I had kids late, and learned a lot from watching my friends. They talk about how they regret parenting precedents they set early that led to conflicts later, including private spaces for technology use, never saying "no" when a child asks for a new "whatever", use online media and social media, etc. I'm sure I'll have my share of teen conflicts to get through, but in the meantime, I try to take a long view on what is important and what is not. And I continue to keep a close eye on my good friends whose kids are 5-10 years older than mine, to learn from them.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

At this age, the only time of day I really had the tv for Kiddo was during dinner prep. My son loved a bluegrass performance video, so we did that for a while. It allowed my son to be engaged (he'd pretend to play guitar --I made one from a small box, cardboard and rubber bands) while I was busy in the kitchen. I would watch more adult shows either during his naptime or in the evenings. We had enough to do without television.

I don't like the idea of the tv turning itself off. It sounds very, very disconnected to me. As the parent, it's my responsibility to A. know what my kid is seeing and B. to determine when the tv is off and on. This seems very hands-off.

Since you say she's not really engaging with it, just turn it off.

What I don't understand is that, in your last question, you mentioned that your husband hadn't had previous experience with kids, but I'll bet you he does remember being a kid. I'm surprised you mentioned that since you now say that you are also a first time parent. You BOTH have the same learning curve. Being the bio parent doesn't make you more equipped to parent. I'm really surprised you added that in, as though he had a disadvantage you did not. I agree with others in saying you both should take some parenting classes together. Three year olds can be tough.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

As an infant - our son didn't get any specific shows - he was just with us when we were watching.
So yeah, while I was breastfeeding I'd be watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
By preschool there were a few shows he liked on PBS - they were fun and educational - they'd be on when we got home while I was getting supper together.
Again - most the time he'd just be watching what we were watching - Star Trek! - we're all major Trekkies and sci-fi fans.
By school - tv was a thing that didn't get turned on until homework and chores were completed.
And once he started taekwondo after school - there were days when we just didn't have time for tv.
He was 4 before he saw his first movie - he just couldn't sit still or have the attention span for it before then - but he was building forts and pillow 'Daddy traps' - he was too busy being creative to watch much.
Once he was reading - reading really became his main 'thing' - he'd rather read a book than turn the tv on - and that's still true even now that he's 18.

At 3 - you want her to be working on small motor coordination (her hands) to prep her for printing and writing in a few years.
That means lacing cards, playing with blocks (or even different shaped dried pasta noodles), sorting things, playdough, finger paints, coloring with crayons (supervise this so she doesn't eat them, shove them up her nose/ears or color the walls) - 3 is too young for safety scissors - they'll try cutting their hair and/or clothes with it.
Less focus on 'watching stuff' and more focus on 'doing stuff'.
There is no set time for tv but I wouldn't make it a priority.
Less than 2 hrs a day is not a bad idea.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I don't think you got as many opinions that she shouldn't watch TV as you did that she shouldn't have her OWN TV.

Of course you can have some great times together watching TV as you say, with "Frozen" or whatever. These can be great bonding times as well as a basis for discussion of the topics on the shows/movies.

If she's not really watching it most of the time, why is it even on? I'm not clear why having it on as background noise is a good thing or a beneficial one. I do see a huge problem down the line when she will claim that it doesn't distract her, and therefore it should be on during dinner or when she's supposed to do homework. That's a huge battle that parents fight with kids who think that headphones and TV are not at all a negative influence on concentration. So my concern is that you will have so much trouble taking it away if it's been a staple in her life from age 3 on.

I'd like to see the study or recommendations by pediatricians for 2 hours maximum (which makes sense) but only in 10 minute increments (which I don't understand). There are 6 periods of 10 minutes each in one hour, and therefore there are 12 periods in 2 hours. So, that means pediatricians suggest that parents turn on the TV 12 different/separate times in the course of a day? How is that even manageable? How is it helpful or beneficial or a good idea? That means that every single activity a child does is interrupted - or can be interrupted - for TV watching? Maybe some of that occurs when parents put on the TV (or a DVD player, more accurately) in the car with every single trip to preschool or the store, but still, that's a ton of screen time. I think that's a really slippery slope.

If you need 20-30 minutes of time to get dinner together, fine. But I do think she needs to learn to do things without the noise in the background all the time, and (as I said in the last post) to do things without you as her playmate. That alone time is often when critical thinking and creativity develop - kids reach a "roadblock" and have to figure it out themselves because there isn't a parent there all the time to bail them out or answer their questions. That's really critical for learning later on.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Fort Myers on

I think you are thinking too much about this. Your daughter isn't a couch potato, she doesn't even sit through a whole episode of whatever you put on. My tv is on all day long. My son is a skinny active 4 year old. Hes not watching it all day - we play outside or he plays with his toys. I keep it on when he's not watching it because I need the background noice.

If your daughter was overweight and all she did was watch tv - then you have a problem. Kids learn a lot from some of these shows (wallykazam and blues clues are my sons favorite). I don't see the harm in it. Doctors are always changing their minds on whats good and bad.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

I think at age 3 I would do as little TV a day as possible. I would use it as a tool to keep her busy when I needed it for maybe a 20 minute cartoon when I am working on getting dinner done. I personally would never let my kids have their own TVs in their rooms. I just think there is no need for that. We just have the one TV in our main living area and we use it pretty sparingly. We are not really a TV fact we purposely did not have one for many years because we didn't want to get sucked in and like spending our time doing more productive things. We gave in a few years ago to our son's delight. But everyone is different...for example my mom will have her TV on the whole time she is at home. She just has it constantly running.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I prefer to have a radio on for background noise but I am not opposed to having the TV on. I listened to shows that I liked too. (I love talk radio, Dennis Prager in particular). I have wondered if listening to adult conversation contributed to both my daughter's advanced vocabulary. I probably spent about 2 hours a day reading to them throughout the day too (age appropriate books) My girls were also really early readers which I think contributed to their vocabularies. (My girls did not watch Caillou. I am not opposed to tv in general though)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I honestly do not think it matters. We watched TV as kids and our kids watch TV. We're fine and our kids are fine.

Every few years someone new comes out with some "study" that says this or that. I think you are the parent and if you want to watch TV with your child or let your child watch TV then it's perfectly fine.

I don't know of very many people that focus on this topic like you are. It's your choice. We can tell you this or that. Today the docs say something and I can guarantee you that in the not too distant future they're going to be picking out something else that is "bad" for kids and TV watching will be fine again.

I don't let anyone else tell me what my choices should or should not be. I watch TV all the time and it's on all the time. Am I sitting there with my eyes glued to it doing nothing else? No. I'm watching Beauty and The Beast right now while typing on the internet while the kids are up fixing snacks and hubby went to let the cat out. We're on a commercial. Soon as it is back on we'll all be sitting back down and watching it together.

Why not. It's our choice for family home evening.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I didn't limit my kids TV time per se, but I did make sure they had enough alternate activities available to them, and mostly outside the house. They watched a bit if TV in the morning while I got ready for the day, they watched in the afternoon during quiet time while I prepared dinner, and sometimes a little in the evening. The rest of the time we were usually playing outside, on a "field trip", running errands and grocery shopping, or participating in an activity or playgroup. I don't think TV will hurt them, as long as they are doing other more creative things and getting plenty of fresh air and exercise.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

When my kids had a sibling home to play with, they would play together, and then if I needed some downtime (me, personally) then I'd pop a show in or while making dinner, etc.

When I had just one home, there might be a bit more TV. But like you say, they didn't always sit and watch it - they'd get up and play with something, and not really pay attention. That can become the norm I think - where it's on as background noise and company, kind of thing. We did that if I wasn't feeling well (to help me out), or on days where I didn't care if the TV was on more - if it was horrible outside, the child was sick, etc.

With us, our kids were in daycare or preschool at that age, with no TV there of course. So they had lots of time without. So it didn't bother me as much to have some downtime with TV when they were home. I never really monitored (timed) it. I just made sure they had plenty of play time, outside time, imagination time (fort building, etc.).

So long as your day does not revolve around TV, it's probably ok. If you're concerned though, just move her toys into the kitchen so you can keep her company, she can hear you instead of the TV in the background, etc. My kids kind of went around the house all day with me.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Two issues:
1) Her own TV in her room.
Bad idea, in my opinion. (I have 2 teens, btw... who wanted a TV in their own room for years and years and years... and even had a grandma offer to buy them one for Christmas and we told her don't, they won't get to keep it.)
2) Having it on when she isn't actively watching it for a particular reason.
This is almost like teaching her that she *needs* it for comfort. She doesn't. If she needs to wind down, read books with her. Give her her own BOOKS (not her own TV). Not a digital device. Watching TV is passive. Handling the pages of a book is tactile and forces her to be engaged in what she is doing. That's why reading stories to kids at bedtime is so relaxing for them. They get the comfort of mom/dad, routine, and the passivity to watch/listen to a slow moving story as they wind down and prepare to fall asleep. When you substitute a TV, it is stimulating visually. And often audibly. Even if it seems soothing.
For example, watch an OLD cartoon.. like an original Winnie The Pooh movie (not the subsequent ones, but the first one with Christopher Robin and the narrator who tells the story)... Then put on a more contemporary one. Notice the difference in the pacing of the sounds, the movements of the characters, the general visual field (more vs less clutter/background), the speed of changing scenes, etc. There is a sharp difference between the two. Some TV/Movies are better for small kids than others (I used to put on Winnie the Pooh when my son was sick on the sofa and just sucked ice pops and dozed off/on) and it has nothing to do with whether or not it's scary. By the same token, even the calmer, less stimulating movies/TV programming is STILL much more stimulating than a book.

Teach your daughter to love books. They will always be her friend. :) Read to her. As much as you can. When you can't, offer her books to look at on her own, until she starts reading, and then give her as many as she is interested in to read on her own. Find I Spy books and read the items to search for and help her search in them.
TV is a poor babysitter with negative effects on the children. Sometimes it's all you have in your quiver when you need a sure distraction and nothing else works, but it shouldn't be the "regular" sitter. It shouldn't be a staple. It will be eventually... but please not at 3.

I also found that as my kids grew older, their moods were highly predictable based upon how much TV time they'd had. More than 30-40 minutes in front of the TV and they became moodier, more unhelpful, more likely to bicker with each other, and generally more self-centered and inwardly focused... Like a drug. Turn it off, and they'd complain, but within 15 minutes they'd find something else to occupy them and they'd return to their normal, generally happy and helpful little selves.

Digital devices (not just TV, but TV as well) change the way the brain functions.



answers from Philadelphia on

I dont think your daughter should be watching any tv

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