“TV provides no educational benefits for a child under age two.”(1) … “Watching TV in childhood increased chances of dropping out of school and decreased chances of getting a college degree.”(2) … “Watching sex on TV increases the chances a teen will have sex, and causes teens to start having sex at younger ages.”(3)
Is TV a “one-eyed monster” devouring our children? These strong statements backed by research suggest it is. Is there any good effect of TV on our children?
“The bad” and “the ugly” – some shocking statistics.
- Infants and toddlers exposed to programs designed to “teach” and enhance “brain development” learn less than children who play and interact with other children and adults instead. A child watching 1 hour of TV a day during his/her first 2-3 years increases their chance of developing attention problems by nearly 10%.
- Watching TV contributes to obesity. On the tennis court, 8.1 calories are burned per minute; an “active” video tennis game like Wii burns about 5.3 calories per minute. Watching TV burns only slightly more calories than sleeping.
- On average, children 8 years and older watch TV and/or computer more than 7 hours daily (this includes DVDs, video games, calling or texting on the phone). That’s over 30% of their time. Usually kids are engaged in more than one of these activities while doing homework.
- Kids immersed in TV are less likely to read books. Even watching kids’ cartoons results in poorer pre-reading skills at age five. Language, which is developed by reading, conversations and play, is delayed and vocabularies are smaller.
- In 1 year, the American child is exposed to 12,000 violent acts on TV. That’s 1,000 per month! The American Psychological Association Help Center counted 20 violent acts per hour on children’s TV programs. Children watching violence learn aggressive behavior, like hitting a child to get the toy they want. They get the idea this is acceptable from TV programs they watch.
- Many parents do not discuss sex with their children, so kids get much of their information from TV. The number of sex scenes has doubled since 1998. Of the 20 most-watched shows by teens, 14 include sexual content. These include an average of 5 scenes per hour. Research documents the increase of sexual activity and teen pregnancy with this drastic increase of sexual content in TV programming.
“The good” – a silver lining around a dark cloud.
For years, “Sesame Street” was the most-watched and loved children’s TV program. Melissa Kearney of the University of Maryland and Phillip Levine Wellesley College studied the impact of “Sesame Street.” They found that “the famous show on public TV delivered lasting educational benefits to millions of American children — benefits as powerful as the ones children get from going to preschool.” They also found that “the show has left children more likely to stay at the appropriate grade level for their age, an effect that is particularly pronounced among boys, African Americans and children who grow up in disadvantaged areas.” Kudos to “Sesame Street”!
How can parents salvage “good” out of TV?
- Become informed about “the bad” and “the ugly” effects and make necessary adjustment to TV viewing habits, not only of the kids but of the entire family. Set limits about how much time is allotted to watching TV. Monitor what is being watched. Be a good role model.
- Use TV effectively to complement what kids are learning at school. Kids who watch informative, educational and non-violent shows score higher on reading and math tests than those who do not.
- Follow-up a “good” TV program with discussion and appropriate activities. (e.g. after a show that featured cooking, have kids join you in the kitchen; take the kids to the library to find books to read on a topic viewed; start up a conversation that will expand the kids’ curiosity about the topic viewed.)
- Create a culture of family in which the uniqueness of each individual is appreciated and the contribution of each individual to the whole is valued. Out of this springs family entertainment with meaningful conversations, engaging story telling and spontaneous laughter. Include outdoor activities and outings that create happy and satisfying memories. All without sacrificing the necessary private space of each family member.
“Any positive effect of television … is still open to question, but the benefits of parent-child interactions are proven. …[They] are far more important to a child’s development than any TV show.”
So says the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Public Education. I agree.
Image courtesy imagrymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
(1) Chacha Tumbokon, <www.raisesmartkids.com/all-ages/1-articles/13-the-good-and-bad-effects-of-tv-on-your-kid>
(2) (3) UNHS, Your Child: Development and Behavior Resources <http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/tv.htm>
University of Maine Bulletin #4100, “Children, Television, and Screen Time” <http://extension.umaine.edu/publications/4100e/>
“4 Good & 6 Bad Effects Of Television On Children”, Dr. Saara Fatema http://www.momjunction.com/articles/good-bad-effects-television-children_0074078/
“Positive Effects of TV”, <http://www.odec.ca/projects/2005/zerb5m0/public_html/positiveEf.html>
“Study: Kids can learn as much from ‘Sesame Street’ as from preschool”, Jim Tankersley, The Washington Post, <http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/sesame-street-and-its-