Q: Our boys are begging to get a TV in their room. I think it would be OK for the summer; we'd remove it when school starts. My husband says it's bad for their health and we should leave the TV in the family room. What's the harm?
A: Why set yourself up for a battle in the fall? I'm with your husband -- let them continue to watch and play in the family room.
While approximately 60 percent of the nation's 10- to 14-year-olds have TVs in their bedrooms, it doesn't mean it's a good idea.
Groups ranging from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry to the National Sleep Foundation are unanimous in their recommendation: Make it a household rule: no TV in kids' bedrooms.
There's a growing body of research showing that TVs (as well as tablets, smartphones and other digital devices) in kids' bedrooms can harm their development. Diane Gilbert-Diamond, a professor in the Department of Community and Family Medicine at Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine, is the lead researcher on a recent study that suggests a possible link between kids having TV in the bedroom and more sedentary behavior, snacking and exposure to food ads, leading to weight gain. Other studies have shown that a TV in the bedroom can mean shorter sleep cycles and less healthy sleep.
Television is also a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behavior. There are many studies showing that children who watch TV without parental guidance and oversight may become "immune" or numb to the horror of violence they see on many programs, begin to accept violence as a way to solve problems, and often imitate the violence they see on TV.
Jessica Kelmon, senior editor at greatschools.org, follows the research. "Kids with TVs in their rooms read less, score lower on tests in school, tend to have sleep issues, and may be more likely to smoke in adolescence," she writes.
Plus, TV takes precious time away from all the great things we want kids to enjoy. "The average American youth spends roughly 900 hours in school each year -- and about 1,200 hours a year watching TV," Kelmon explains.
She adds, "1,200 hours is 150 school days."
With all of our digital devices, she contends, "It's never been easier -- TV or no TV -- for children to be transfixed by endless hours of videos on YouTube, TV shows on Hulu, and movies on Netflix from the comfort of their rooms."
Kelmon advises parents to block the box from the bedroom and follow these tips:
-- Make TV viewing an active choice, as if you were picking a movie: "How about if we watch this show at 7:30?"
-- Hide the remote. "Channel surfing encourages passive viewing," says Kelmon. "When family members have to get up to change the channel, they may be more selective about the programs they watch."
-- When the show you've chosen to watch is over, turn off the set. Don't keep the TV on for background noise.
-- Record programs and watch them later. Kelmon fast-forwards through commercials because it "cuts minutes of viewing and temptation to spend more time glued to the tube."
-- Have kids watch their favorite shows in a central area of the home. "Even if you're not sitting down with them, check in while passing through," says Kelmon. "That way, you keep closer tabs on what they're watching."
For more television advice from Kelmon, check out her blog post, "Is there a TV in your child's room?" at greatschools.org, or follow her on Twitter at @JessicaKelmon.
(Do you have a question about your child's education? Email it to Leanna@aplusadvice.com. Leanna Landsmann is an education writer who began her career as a classroom teacher. She has served on education commissions, visited classrooms in 49 states to observe best practices, and founded Principal for a Day in New York City.)