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Last Updated: Monday, 23 April 2007, 08:43 GMT 09:43 UK
Ration TV for children, MPs urged
Children watching TV
TVs should be banned from bedrooms, says Dr Sigman.
The amount of time children spend watching television should be rationed to prevent health and learning problems, an expert is to tell MPs.

Children under three should not watch any TV, psychologist Dr Aric Sigman will argue at a Westminster conference.

He also believes there should not be any TV sets in children's bedrooms and that new mothers should be warned of the dangers of excessive viewing.

Broadcasters say television is an easy scapegoat for society's problems.

Dr Sigman wants parents to be given recommended daily TV amount guidelines by the government, as they are for salt, and said "screen media" was a major issue for public health.

He recommends that children under 12 watch no more than one hour a day and those between 12 and 15 watch a maximum of one-and-a-half hours.

Dr Sigman's recommendations
Children under three: No screen exposure
Ages three to seven: 30 minutes to one hour per day
Ages seven to 12: One hour per day
Ages 12 to 15: One and-a-half hours a day
Ages 16 and over: Two hours

He will voice his concerns at a Children and the Media conference, at the House of Commons, later.

The conference has been organised by Mediawatch-UK and will be attended by health representatives and MPs.

'Nanny state'

Studies have suggested excessive TV watching is linked to difficulty in sleeping, behavioural problems and increased obesity in children.

Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said: "In theory, the principle of a ban is terrific, but in practice we think it's unworkable. TV is a fact of life, but you can limit it and you should.

"There's no doubt that children who watch TV do not exercise and they snack, mostly on foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar."

Dr Sigman, who is an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and member of the Institute of Biology, rejected claims setting down guidelines constituted creating a "nanny state".

He said: "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.

There are plenty of studies that indicate the educational value of programmes for children
Greg Childs
Save Kids' TV campaign

"Screen media must now be considered a major public health issue and reducing television viewing must become the new priority for child health."

He said most of the damage linked to television screen viewing seemed to occur beyond watching one to one-and-a-half hours per day, irrespective of the quality of the programme, while the average child watched three to five times this amount.

"Parents need an ideal reference point, even if they choose to ignore it or cannot adhere to it," Dr Sigman added.

But Greg Childs, from the Save Kids' TV campaign, insisted it was "unrealistic and unnecessary" to ban television for under threes, and instead efforts should focus on improving the quality of programmes.

"There are plenty of studies that indicate the educational value of programmes for children [and] the socialisation value in the way that they create conversations rather than destimulate them."

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