Television is a cheap babysitter. Kid-friendly shows like The Backyardigans and Dora the Explorer are a quick way to soothe a cranky child or at least mellow out those with energy to burn. According to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, too many moms—those who are obese, in particular—rely on the tried-and-true TV method for fussy and active babies in lieu of playing and interacting with their little ones. As a result, 40 percent of infants watch three hours of TV a day by the time they’re 12 months old. That’s one-third of the time they’re awake. And in the same way adults overeat while watching TV, mothers overfeed their infants as they’re vegging out, missing cues when the child is no longer hungry. It’s a cycle that’s creating a new generation of inactive, overweight kids.

Parents, we must be more creative. The American Academy of Pediatrics instructs that children under two years old should not be exposed to entertainment media as their minds develop. And that’s a head start they need: As they get older, children spend an average of seven hours a day soaking up time with their TV, phone, and computer. As adults, we spend more than eight hours a day in front of a screen. Turns out, unplugging the TV and powering off the iPad for our children might be just as helpful and healthy for us.

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