First Lady Recommends Limiting Screen Time for Children

Cross-posted from Appetite for Profit.

It seems some thought I was a tad too harsh in my critique of the new MyPlate, the federal government’s latest attempt to teach Americans how to eat right. So in the spirit of recognizing positive moves coming from Washington D.C., here is some good news.

Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama announced the latest addition to her effort to reduce childhood obesity: Let’s Move Child Care, which includes a checklist for child day care providers to follow. The most impressive recommendation is to limit screen time. Specifically, to “none under age 2″ and for 2 and up, limit to 30 minutes/week during child care and no more than 1-2 hours/day of quality screen time at home.

First Lady Mrs. Obama unveiled the effort while visiting children at Centro Nia, a bilingual child care center in Washington, DC.

This is a very strong recommendation (backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics) and cannot have made the television industry or its advertisers very happy. And it could help reduce the negative impact of marketing because the earlier children form emotional bonds with cartoon characters, the sooner junk food pushers can exploit those connections. Remember that scene in the film Super Size Me when Morgan Spurlock showed how easily young toddlers recognized images of icons such as Ronald McDonald?

Kudos to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood(CCFC) for its leadership on this issue. (Full disclosure, I am on their steering committee.) In recent years, CCFC has been fighting Disney over its controversial videos, Baby Einstein. The upshot of that battle was Disney changed its advertising claims.

We have certainly come a long way. Here’s what Let’s Move has to say on videos for babies:

Not too long ago, moms and child care providers all over the country were buying and showing videos and DVDs galore geared entirely toward the infant audience. But now we know that babies and even toddlers (ages 0 to 2 years old) shouldn’t get any screen time at all — zero, not even a few minutes here and there.

Take that Disney! (Here is CCFC’s statement applauding the first lady’s campaign.)

Other positive recommendations for day care centers include serving fruits or vegetables at every meal, avoiding fried foods, saying “so long to sugary drinks” and my favorite: just give kids water, imagine!

When it comes to keeping kids hydrated, it doesn’t get much better than plain old water. And it’s wise to serve toddlers and preschoolers only water at meals — so that they don’t get filled up with milk or juice, making it less likely they’ll have room to eat.

Did you hear that American Beverage Association and National Dairy Council?

Why is this a big deal? In addition to providing leadership and supporting parents, the Let’s Move campaign says it has already received commitments from the Department of Defense, General Services Administration, and the nation’s second largest childcare provider, Bright Horizons, to implement the checklist, which will impact the lives of more than 280,000 children.

And that, is a very good start.

You can watch the first lady’s video announcement here.




Image Credits:

1.     Let’s Move

2.     Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood