I'm aware that TV should be avoided at all, if possible.

However, my daughter likes it and when she watches TV we have the chance of doing some cooking, housekeeping, etc.

So, what's an acceptable amount of TV for a 4yo child?

  • Are you looking for opinions or research studies?
    – Kevin
    Apr 20, 2011 at 20:24
  • Not necessarily scientific studies, but sourced information would be great.
    – Jack V
    Apr 21, 2011 at 10:06
  • I vote to close this. As it is currently phrased, the question is too subjective and doesn't outline any objective criteria with which to provide an answer.
    – J.J.
    Apr 21, 2011 at 19:47
  • Our pediatrician suggested no more than 60 min per day of any electronics
    – user9033
    Jun 11, 2014 at 19:16
  • I get a strong impression that even among professionals the answers you get are driven more by pre-existing beliefs than by actual evidence. This was a live question back when I was a kid in the 60s and 70s, when "Watch With Mother" was derided as "Watch While Mother Cooks Dinner". I don't think we are actually any further forwards in the debate, beyond the observation that civilization didn't collapse when the first "TV Generation" grew up. I suspect the same is going to happen to the Internet Generation. Aug 31, 2020 at 9:44

6 Answers 6


According to the AAP children should be limited to a maximum of 2 hours of quality TV per day.

  • 5
    There's no such thing as quality TV.
    – Nathan
    Apr 21, 2011 at 2:10
  • 3
    @Nathan - There is definitely a lot of quality TV around. Apr 21, 2011 at 6:50
  • 6
    @Nathan the American Association of Pediatrics disagrees. Sure, 99% is garbage, but educational programs, particularly with a parent interacting with the child, can at least provide the child with useful information. However, in the context of my answer, "quality" really means "don't sit your kid down in front of a bunch of Disney cartoons simply for a bit of quiet; instead try to make sure the shows you select at least make an effort to be educational".
    – user420
    Apr 21, 2011 at 11:29
  • There are other great answers. I'm accepting this one because it links to information from a professional source.
    – Jack V
    Apr 21, 2011 at 20:48
  • 2
    Two hours is an ETERNITY .. chances are the child is only awake 12 hours a day .. 2 hours is 15% of that. I suspect the AAP 2 hour number is a compromise that they thought is achievable in today's family rather than a sincere "best practice".
    – tomjedrz
    Sep 12, 2011 at 5:07

I'm aware that TV should be avoided at all, if possible.

You're totally right. The best answer is:


Just do it-- you won't be sorry. Also, support Screen Free Week this week.

We don't have a TV by choice. During meal prep my kids

  • draw a picture
  • read a story
  • help with dinner
  • set the table
  • sing a song
  • play a game
  • make a pretend dinner
  • etc

It can be done! TV makes your kids vapid consumers instead of the delightful people you want them to be.

  • I tend to agree with Nathan. My wife and I enjoy movies, so we've always had a VCR/DVD player or (more recently) a widescreen computer monitor for that. But as far as cable or satellite TV, we've never had it and we don't miss it. Apr 21, 2011 at 11:15
  • 4
    -1 Sorry, but I just hate answers like this. The question started off with "I'm aware that TV should be avoided at all, if possible." The specific question was "If I do allow TV, how much is acceptable". Yes, Nathan, we get that you are opposed to children watching TV at all. I am, too. However, that opinion is not productive towards the context of this particular question, and your answer amounts to nothing more than soap-box preaching.
    – user420
    Apr 21, 2011 at 11:31
  • 2
    @Nathan, I upvoted your answer. But Beofett does have a point. I think a small edit of changing "We don't have a TV and my three kids are awesome. During meal prep they" to "We don't have a TV, so during meal prep my three kids:" would make your answer less "preachy"
    – Kevin
    Apr 21, 2011 at 13:31
  • 1
    @Kevin, he'd also have to remove the "don't settle for the stupid box. It makes your kids vapid consumers..." part as well. In fact, the whole concept of Q: "I know this isn't ideal, but I want to do x. How should I do x?" A: "Don't do x! It's bad" is preachy, no matter how you phrase it. The format of SE is question and answers, not topic and opinions. For reference, please see: meta.parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/123/…
    – user420
    Apr 21, 2011 at 14:41
  • @Beofett, @Kevin, I've toned it down a bit in response to your suggestions. It's okay with me if people don't agree and vote the answer down, but I wanted to strongly state a case against any TV.
    – Nathan
    Apr 21, 2011 at 19:42

We do at most 2 hours per day for our 5 year old, but they CANNOT be continual hours, he can do at most one hour at a time then needs to take at least a 30 minute break. Of course this also means being a good distance away from the TV as well. If your daughter is old enough why not try to have her help you during the chores...there is another thread on that here as well.


I would agree with Michael that no more than 2 hours per day is an acceptable limit; studies have shown that pre-schoolers do benefit from educational programming (just google search it, there is a lot of interesting research going on), especially in the area of literacy. Television programs like Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer work on teaching letters, numbers, and vocabulary, and are among the less obnoxious shows. Anything that promotes violence, bad manners, or discourteous and disrespectful behavior should be avoided.

However, I also liked Michael's answer because it gets at the point that television is not a babysitter. Your four year old will learn much more if they are cooking or participating in household chores with you than anything they could learn in front of the tube. I completely understand that you need time to get stuff done, but I would encourage you to include your child in as many home activities as possible; this can encourage a love of creativity and a sense of responsibility.


We have a general rule of one hour a day, of TV/DSi/Computer playing. To be frank, we're trying to wean them off as it's just too easy to let the TV become the defacto nanny when you're busy. However, there are some good programs for them to watch, which are intelligently directed at forming 'good citizenship'. You just have to find them.

I am not averse to allowing kids to watch TV, but it does have to be restricted, as they forget how to actually play, how to interact, and how to behave.

Anecdotal, I know, but one child will go and play wonderfully when the TV is turned off, but the other will throw a paddy.


Accompanied or unaccompanied makes a difference too. If it's TV that you're watching as well, discussing with them so the two (or more) of you are interacting, then you're probably able to get away with more.

Just dropping a child in front of the TV and wandering away is what we all sometimes do, but has to be less!

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