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9 Signs Your Toddler Is Watching Too Much TV

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Has any invention caused more parental angst and joy than the television? Sure, you worry about your kid's exposure to violence and bad behavior. But when you just need to sneak off for a half-minute to use the bathroom, having a TV show that holds your kid's attention is a miracle. As with most things, finding the happy medium is key. By keeping an eye out for the signs your toddler is watching too much TV, you can make sure your kid doesn't overdo it on the screen time.

Because, like any tool, TV is neither good nor bad. It all depends on how you use it. Chances are, you have fond childhood memories of watching your favorite shows. (Eureeka's Castle will forever hold a place in my heart). And some research even supports the positive benefits of TV shows for young children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, quality educational programming for children such as Sesame Street may help boost the cognitive and even social development of kids aged 3 to 5. So in many ways, TV can assist with the educational and emotional growth of children.

But any parent is probably wary of the effects of too much screen time on a developing mind. And with tablets, a TV show is now accessible anywhere, anytime. So to help you find that happy medium, here are the things that may happen to toddlers who watch too much TV.

1. They Have Sleep Issues

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OK, so basically no toddler is blessed with a perfect night's sleep every night. But if your little one is really struggling to stay on a sleep schedule, then TV could be the culprit. As noted by the Baby Sleep Site, a study from the University of Auckland found that it takes longer for children to fall asleep when they watch TV  in the hour and a half leading up to their bedtime. The lights and activity may overstimulate their brains, making it harder to settle down for the night.

2. They Have Language Delays

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Is it taking your kid a little longer to grasp the basics of speech? According to a 2015 study in PLOS ONE, 2-year-olds who watched more than two hours of TV a day had a greater likelihood of experiencing language development delays. Apparently, the screen is no substitute for real-life real talk.

3. They Exhibit Aggressive Behavior

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Sure, some amount of animosity is common in most kids. But if your toddler suddenly gets super aggro on the playground, then it may be time to cut back on the screen time. According to a 2007 study in Ambulatory Pediatrics, toddlers between the ages of 21 and 33 months who received increased media exposure showed a tendency toward aggressive and oppositional behavior. Although it may be easy to dismiss all toddlers as aggressive and oppositional, you can experiment with cutting back on TV time to see whether this helps your little one chill out.

4. They Give You Sass

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Did your sweet toddler suddenly become the master of backtalk? Check your viewing history. As reported by The Telegraph, some parents worry that kid's shows may encourage misbehavior. Because kids are still in the process of learning what kinds of behavior are acceptable, they may think acting confrontational is OK — especially when their favorite characters display those qualities. Fortunately, if it's only one show that's triggered this response, you can steer your kid toward kinder programming, or some other activity entirely.

5. They Are Physically Inactive

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Sure, it may feel like the average toddler is incapable of sitting still ever. But as noted by Kidspot, toddlers who watch over two hours of TV a day are more likely to be less active physically. It's smart to make sure your kid still has plenty of time to run around and play.

6. They Have A Lot Of Fear

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If an episode of Making a Murderer left you with a couple of sleepless nights, just think about how much scary TV shows can impact your kid. Even a show that seems tame to you may leave your kid with an exaggerated fear of  victimization, as explained by the American Psychological Association. Your toddler doesn't yet know that drowning in quicksand is not a big problem for most people.

7. They Beg For Things

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OK, so this is more of an advertising problem than a TV problem. But chances are, you have to deal with some ads in your kid's shows. What's more, children under the age of six cannot totally tell the difference between a TV show and an advertisement, according to Kids Health. And because media literacy takes years to develop, very young kids don't yet understand that getting a particular toy will not in fact fulfill all of their hopes. They just want it, and bugging you is the only way to get it.

8. They Can't Pay Attention

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Sure, it isn't like most toddlers have very long attention spans, but TV can get in the way of their development. As noted in a 2008 study from Child Development, even having a TV on for background noise can disrupt children's play time and hamper their ability to focus. Adults have a hard enough time multitasking, so it's no wonder children also have trouble focusing on more than one thing at a time.  

9. They Have Lower Impulse Control

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When toddlers are actively interacting with other people or engaged in imaginative play, their brains are developing and they're learning the rules of the world. But when a toddler spends a lot of time watching TV, then his brain doesn't get the same chance to learn about the world and start to master self regulation, as noted by Aha! Parenting. As a result, this may lead to toddlers who have even less impulse control than what could be expected.