Children under three 'should not watch TV'
Last Updated: 6:50am BST 24/04/2007
Children under three should see no television and it should be severely rationed for older youngsters, an expert told MPs yesterday. Parents should restrict them to a recommended daily allowance, said Dr Aric Sigman.
He believes too much watching increases the risk of health and learning problems and said the Government must take action.
He also believes there should be no sets in children's bedrooms and new mothers should be warned of the possible effects of too much television.
Studies have shown that excessive TV watching is linked to difficulty in sleeping, behavioural problems and increased obesity in children.
One long-term study in 2004 found that children who watched more than two hours a day between the ages of five and 15 saw their health suffer years later.
Dr Sigman told a Children and the Media conference at the Commons: "Screen media must now be considered a major public health issue and reducing television viewing must become the new priority for child health."
He rejected fears of a "nanny state", saying: "Successive governments are quite willing to advise us on personal matters ranging from how many apples and oranges we should eat per day, grams of daily salt intake, units of alcohol, sun SPF factors and passive smoking, to our sexual habits and how and when we should smack our children.
"Providing general guidance on whether infants should be watching television and how much time children should spend in front of the screen is hardly radical.
"While popular phrases such as 'striking a balance' or 'everything in moderation' may sound reassuringly sensible, one of the main obstacles in encouraging people to reduce their children's screen time is the vagueness of the terms 'moderation' and 'excessive'.
"We haven't been told what excessive actually means. Most of the damage linked to television screen viewing seems to occur beyond watching one to one-and-a-half hours per day, irrespective of the quality of the programme.
"Yet the average child watches three to five times this amount. Parents need an ideal reference point."
Dr Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society, said many people believed parents should not be made to feel guilty about their children's television watching but child health was more important.
"The British population watches television for more hours per day and reads less than any other nation in Europe. Our children are Europe's most obese.
"By the time children reach adolescence they spend an average of 7.5 hours a day in front of a television screen," he said.
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