Television Precautions

Television has a tremendous influence on how children view our world. Most youngsters spend more hours watching TV from birth to age 18 than they spend in the classroom. A positive aspect of TV viewing can be the opportunity to see different life-styles and cultures. In addition, TV has great entertainment value. While TV can be a good source of instruction, most children watch TV excessively and experience some of the negative consequences described below. Many of these same concerns apply to video games, computer games and exposure to the Internet.

Harmful Aspects of Television

TV displaces active types of recreation.

It decreases time spent playing with peers. A child has less time for self-directed daydreaming and creative thinking. It takes away time for participating in sports, music, art, or other activities that require practice to achieve competence.

TV interferes with conversation and discussion time.

It reduces social interactions with family and friends.

TV discourages reading.

Reading requires much more thinking than watching television. Reading improves a youngster’s vocabulary. A decrease in reading scores may be related to too much time in front of the TV.

Heavy TV viewing (more than 4 hours a day) definitely reduces school performance.

This much TV interferes with study, reading, and thinking time. If children do not get enough sleep because they are watching TV, they will not be alert enough to learn well on the following day.

TV discourages exercise.

TV watching promotes an inactive life-style, which leads to poor physical fitness. If accompanied by frequent snacking, watching TV may contribute to weight problems.

TV advertising encourages a demand for material possessions.

Young children will pressure their parents to buy the toys they see advertised. TV portrays materialism as the “American way.”

TV violence can affect how a child feels toward life and other people.

Viewing excessive violence may cause a child to be overly fearful about personal safety and the future. TV violence may numb the sympathy a child normally feels toward victims of human suffering. Young children may be more aggressive in their play after seeing violent television shows.

Preventing Television / Media Addiction

Avoid TV viewing for children under the age of two years.

Research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with parents and caregivers for healthy brain growth and the development of appropriate social, emotional, and cognitive skills. Therefore, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that young children be discouraged from watching TV programs.

Encourage active recreation.

Help your child become interested in sports, games, hobbies, and music. Occasionally turn off the television and take a walk or play a game with your child.

Read to your children.

Begin reading to your child by 1 year of age and encourage him to read on his own as he becomes older. Some parents help children earn TV or video game time by equivalent reading time. Help him improve his conversational skills by spending more of your time talking with him.

Limit TV time to 1-2 hours a day for older children.

Limit TV to 1 hour on school nights and 2 hours a day on weekends. Occasionally you may want to allow extra viewing time for special educational programs.

Be selective of the TV programs your children watch.

Choose programs for their moral and instructive value, not just for entertainment. Avoid programs that display disrespectful social relations or disharmonious parent-child relations. Co-view with your child and discuss the content of the programming.

Don’t use TV as a distraction or a baby-sitter for preschool children.

Preschooler’s viewing should be limited to special TV shows and occasional videotapes that are produced for young children. Because the difference between fantasy and reality is not clear for this age group, regular TV shows may cause fears.

If your child is doing poorly in school, limit TV time to 1 half hour each day.

Make a rule that your child must finish homework and chores before watching television. If your child’s favorite show is on before the work can be done, consider recording the show for later viewing.

Set a bedtime for your child that is not altered by TV shows that interest your child.

Children who are allowed to stay up late to watch television are usually too tired the following day to remember what they were taught in school. By all means, do not permit your child to have a TV set in her bedroom because this eliminates your control over TV viewing and is associated with sleep problems, school dysfunction, and childhood.

Turn off the TV set during meals.

Family time is too precious to be squandered on TV shows. In addition, don’t have the television always on as a background sound in your house. If you don’t like a quiet house, try to listen to music without lyrics.

In summary, limited TV viewing for the older child can be an entertaining and educational experience. As with most matters, however, too much of a “good thing” can be detrimental.

Posted in: Pediatric Topics