Television is everywhere and children are some of its most voracious consumers, often exposed to it even as infants and toddlers.1 TV can be educating and entertaining, but as parents you also need to understand the downside and decide how much TV is too much.
TV And Your Child
The influence of TV on children’s psychosocial and brain development is profound. In a national survey, hyperactivity and behavioral problems were studied in 1278 children aged 1 and 1345 children aged 3. Ten percent of these children had attention problems by the age of 7.2 In another study on TV’s influence on cognitive development and impact on children’s education, heavy TV viewers had poorer school and academic achievement
Language skills are also often hampered by children’s exposure to TV. Reading is put on the back burner and the child may not develop a proper vocabulary at par with other peers. Since TV is generally one-way communication, children also lose out on learning through interaction.
Obesity and oversnacking have clearly been linked to TV viewing. Once addicted to TV, children are often glued to it for long hours at the expense of playing and other physical activities. Children also tend to snack more on junk food while watching TV. A study by Hernandez et al. found that television viewing and video games increased the prevalence of obesity in children aged 9–16 years. Physical activities took a beating while snacking on high-calorie foods was a focal element of the TV viewing experience.4 TV viewing also increases the chances of fatigue and lack of motivation among children. Commercials set off cravings and demands for high sugar, junk, or processed foods.5
Violence, Aggression, And Bullying
According to a study by George Gerbner, children’s TV programs show about 20 violent behaviors every hour.6 Other studies show that the average American child will end up watching approximately 200, 000 violent acts by the age of 18.7 In many cases, TV quite often offers a child’s first glimpse of aggression and they become accustomed to
Risky Or Deviant Behavior
TV shows and commercials often promote risky behaviors involving alcohol, smoking, drugs, rash driving, petty crimes, and promiscuity. Children perceive these as cool, fun things and assimilate these values. In a
Commercials too have a deep impact on young minds – after all, as the American Psychological Association points out, “The average child is exposed to more than 40,000 TV commercials a year.”11 Children don’t have the discretion to understand an ad is biased, subjective, and often far from the truth. They also pick up racial and gender cues from television and internalize stereotypes.
How Much, How Soon?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) clearly advises parents to either totally eliminate or minimize screen time for children
The AAP also advises parents to limit screen time for children up to the age of 8. The brain matures by the age of 10‒12 (in a process called
The Canadian Pediatric Society advises no more than 2 hours of viewing daily among school-going children while referring to the interference of TV on children’s cognitive and emotional development. The society also endorses studies that link older children’s behavioral difficulties to excessive TV viewing.15
The Right Course
If used correctly, TV can be a window to the world. Kids above the age of 2 can pick up skills (media literacy) and learning (nature, wildlife, history etc) via the TV as long as it is moderated by parents. Avoid violent shows and set children off on a TV trail comprising nature and wildlife documentaries, discovery and science shows, and history and art programs. Cartoons are fine once in a way
TV can never be a “substitute nanny” or replace playtime or family time. Get your child to the playground, every day! Encourage conversations with others at home and activities like reading and drawing. You may not be able to banish the TV completely but there’s enough to be done to reduce its sway on your little one.
|↑1||The Media Family: Electronic Media in the Lives of infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers and their Parents. Kaiser Family Foundation|
|↑2||Christakis, Dimitri A., Frederick J. Zimmerman, David L. DiGiuseppe, and Carolyn A. McCarty. “Early television exposure and subsequent attentional problems in children.” Pediatrics 113, no. 4 (2004): 708-713.|
|↑3||Anderson, Daniel R., and Patricia A. Collins. “The Impact on Children’s Education: Television’s Influence on Cognitive Development. Working Paper No. 2.” (1988).|
|↑4||Hernández, Bernardo, Steven L. Gortmaker, Graham A. Colditz, Karen E. Peterson, Nan M. Laird, and S. Parra-Cabrera. “Association of
|↑5||Aktas Arnas, Y. A. Ş. A. R. E. “The effects of television food advertisement on children’s food purchasing requests.” Pediatrics International 48, no. 2 (2006): 138-145.|
|↑6||Gerbner, George, Larry Gross, Michael Morgan, and Nancy Signorielli. “The “mainstreaming” of America: Violence profile no. 11.” Journal of communication 30, no. 3 (1980): 10-29.|
|↑7||Huston, Aletha C. Big world, small screen: The role of television in American society. U of Nebraska Press, 1992.|
|↑8||American Psychological Association. “Violence on television: what do children learn? What can parents do.” (1999).|
|↑9||Huesmann, L. Rowell, Jessica Moise-Titus, Cheryl-Lynn Podolski, and Leonard D. Eron. “Longitudinal relations between children’s exposure to TV violence and their aggressive and violent behavior in young adulthood: 1977-1992.”Developmental psychology 39, no. 2 (2003): 201.|
|↑10||Klein, Jonathan D., Jane D. Brown, Carol Dykers, Kim Walsh Childers, Janice Oliveri, and Carol Porter. “Adolescents’ risky behavior and mass media use.” Pediatrics 92, no. 1 (1993): 24-31.|
|↑11||Protecting children from advertising. American Psychological Association.|
|↑12||Brown, Ari, Donald L. Shifrin, and David L. Hill. “Beyond ‘turn it off’: How to advise families on media use.” AAP News 36, no. 10 (2015): 54-54.|
|↑13||Kirkorian, Heather L., Tiffany A. Pempek, Lauren A. Murphy, Marie E. Schmidt, and Daniel R. Anderson. “The impact of background television on parent–child interaction.” Child development 80, no. 5 (2009): 1350-1359.|
|↑14||Myelination in Development. Cognitive Cultural Web, UCLA.|
|↑15||Lipnowski, Stan, Claire MA LeBlanc, Healthy Active Living, and Sports Medicine Committee. “Healthy active living: Physical activity guidelines for children and adolescents.” Paediatrics & child health 17, no. 4 (2012): 209.|
|↑16||Mares, Marie-Louise, and Emory Woodard. “Positive effects of television on children’s social interactions: A meta-analysis.” Media Psychology7, no. 3 (2005): 301-322.|