September 16, 2015 11:25 AM EDT

TV watching is designed to be appealing—and habit-forming. Beyond the health risks associated with being sedentary for extended periods of time, the addictive hours of screen watching have become a commonplace and almost bonding activity for many families. TV binges are replacing time once spent on more active parent-to-child experiences, which have proved to be significant in child brain development. Bingeing indirectly sends the message, “This screen is more important to me than spending time with you.”

The explosion of viewing options clearly has advantages, but these days, parents need to be thinking consumers of the medium. Decide ahead of time what you and your child are going to watch and how many hours you’re going to allocate to the TV.

Camarata is a Vanderbilt University professor and the author of The Intuitive Parent

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