Technology and media have made learning fun for children, but they come with disadvantages when misused. So, is TV for kids good or bad? How much TV should kids watch every day? What kind of TV shows may be watched?
MomJunction tells you about the good and bad effects of television on children and how a parent can deal with it.
Positive Effects Of Television On Kids
The television is not bad. When exposed to the right shows or programs, your child can learn useful things. Research indicates that watching TV can have a positive impact on children. It can help them change their behavior and attitude for good (1). Here are some more ways in which TV can have a positive influence on kids.
1. Educational content
A few television channels are dedicated to creating educational and informative content for the audience, especially children. Sesame Street, for example, is one such program which is aimed at preschoolers.
There are a few channels that broadcast only educational content covering subjects like art and craft, science, history, geography, and math. The TV is also a great medium that exposes children to different languages around the world.
Allowing your children to watch news channels, with a little guidance, will help them stay updated with the current affairs and names of significant people in the world.
The sounds and colorful images on the screen appeal to children and also retain their attention. From movies to cartoon shows, there are several programs to keep children engaged.
However, make sure that the content is appropriate for your kids based on their age and level of understanding.
Encourage your kids to watch different sports like tennis, soccer, baseball, and basketball, by co-viewing with them. Tell them about the gameplay, rules and other interesting facts about the sport. If they show interest in any, encourage them to play the game or sport.
4. Exposure to different cultures
The TV can help your child to learn about different countries and teach them about various cultures in the world. With the right choice of programs, your child might learn about various people around the world, their traditions, lifestyles, and cultures.
5. Television might Inspire
TV shows aimed at young children and adolescents are not only educational but also inspiring. Educational TV programs encourage children to try new things. For example, a TV show about creative fun can inspire a child to try something new with clay, paints, or paper. Likewise, a documentary about famous scientists, artists, and other public figures can also inspire them to do good deeds or achieve something big in life.
6. 3D TV and programs
3D technology has changed the way we experience television. 3D television programs and movies offer an enhanced experience for kids. Although the popularity of 3D TV has been on the decline in the recent past, there are still a few networks offering educational programs in 3D.
The American Optometric Association has confirmed that 3D can be viewed by most children (2). If your child has trouble, consult a medical professional.
Your kids can reap all these benefits from watching TV or the internet only when you guide them to watch the right shows for a limited time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time and the types of media that children aged six and older watch. For children between the ages of two and five years, screen time should be limited to one hour per day and must only include high-quality programs (3).
Digital media can quietly take over your children’s lives if you are not cautious. The “just one more hour” could extend if not corrected at the nascent stage.
Negative Effects Of Television On Children
TV affects children negatively as well. Unfortunately, the adverse effects seem to outnumber the positive ones when you do not pay attention to. Here are a few ways in which TV can be a bad influence on your children.
7. Curbs physical activity
Addiction to TV shows reduces the amount of physical activity in children. Sometimes, they refuse to do anything else but watch TV all day.
- Lack of proper physical activity and too much screen time can lead to vision problems.
- Research has also indicated that there is a direct connection between TV time and obesity in kids (4).
8. Impacts social development
Kids who watch a lot of TV do not have time to play or socialize.
Less or no interaction with peers can affect their social development. TV eats away the time they get to interact with other children in their social circle, which may affect their knowledge and understanding of social interactions and behavior.
9. Affects brain development and behavior
TV shows may be educational, but excessive watching could affect your child’s brain development, according to studies. The first couple of years in your child’s life are very important for brain development.
- Researchers found that prolonged TV viewing might lower cognitive abilities related to short-term memory, early reading, math skills, and language development (5).
- Another study by The John Hopkins University states that toddlers who watch television for more than two hours a day can have behavioral problems (6).
Even educational shows like Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer are recommended for children not until pre-school age.
10. Exposure to vices
You may also not always be able to control what your kid watches on the TV.
- Early exposure to inappropriate content that has sex, alcohol, and drugs, could bring up questions in children, the answers to which may be too complicated for them to understand. The worst part is that early exposure can even give them a distorted view of these elements.
- The violence portrayed in a “positive” light in superhero movies and the like gives them an idea that it is “okay” to be violent. So, kids watching TV shows based on superheroes may start believing that violence is not bad.
- It may even encourage violent and aggressive behavior in some kids, which can be detrimental to their social development (7). In some children, this behavior may surface immediately, while in some, it could come up during the later years.
11. Gives a distorted view of the world
Television might lead to the “mean world syndrome” in kids and teenagers (8).
- Movies and other television shows may exaggerate reality and create extremely violent scenes online, which may be terrifying for kids.
- The amount of violence and guns used on TV may give them the impression that the world is an unsafe place for them.
- At the same time, animated and cartoon shows, which underplay the effects of violence, may desensitize kids to real-world events.
Another bane of television is consumerism. The number of ads that a child sees on TV exposes them to a variety of brands and products that they may not need.
- Commercials encourage kids to consume unhealthy foods and drinks.
- Children begin to believe that fast food, ice creams, and carbonated drinks are good.
- Parents become the victims of consumerism as kids insist on buying something that they saw on TV. They are forced to spend money on things that their children want but do not need.
What Can Parents Do?
Parents have to take a stand when it comes to television. If you want to protect your children from the damaging effects of television, here is what you can do.
1. Choose The Right TV Shows
The first step is to figure out what shows are appropriate for children. You will have to do some research to understand the content and the message that the show sends out to the audience. Do not pick a show just because it is for children. Keep in mind the following factors before you decide what to watch for kids:
- The content of the show must be appropriate for your child’s age.
- Pick shows with shorter duration. The longer they watch, the more the chances of them getting addicted.
- Check the tone and pace of the show as you would not want your kids to watch an energetic show before going to bed.
- Do not let them watch ads. Kids are naïve and commercials can be manipulative as their primary goal is to sell products by convincing their impressionable audience.
- Encourage them to watch educational programs by watching them yourselves.
2. Limit TV Time For Kids
The number of hours children spend watching digital media are increasing at an alarming rate. While you may not be able to control how much TV your kids watch outside, you can surely limit it at home. Here’s how.
- No television during mealtime: Do not allow your kids to watch TV while they are eating. Ensure that you have dinner together, if possible, at the dinner table with no TV in the background.
- Remove TV from the bedroom: TV in bedrooms is a bad idea, especially for kids as prolonged exposure to screens can affect their sleeping habits.
- TV is not a babysitter: It is common for parents to use the television as a babysitter when they want to do something without being disturbed by their kids. When you are busy, you may not be able to monitor what the kids are watching, and that can expose them to inappropriate content.
- Television in the background: It is common to leave the TV turned on in the background when you are busy in the kitchen, doing the laundry or working from home. That will only draw the child’s attention to it. Do not switch on the TV unless you want to watch something.
- Set TV time rules for school days: Chalk out specific TV time for kids for weekdays and weekends and stick to them. That will prevent them from watching too much TV on any given day.
3. Make It A Family Activity
Try to make watching TV a fun family activity, instead of a means to pass the time. That will discourage your children from watching it when they are bored or alone at home.
4. Encourage Physical Activity
One more thing you could do is encourage your children to go out and play. This might help in shifting their attention away from the digital media. If your kids are resisting, then try these:
- Organize play dates with your neighbor’s kids.
- Participate with them in some outdoor games.
- Encourage them to participate in games and sports at school.
- Reward them if they voluntarily ditch the TV to play outdoors.
Role Of Television In Your Kid’s Life
Let’s face the fact that television is not going anywhere anytime soon. So, not buying a TV to keep your child ‘safe’ does not guarantee that they will not be exposed to it. They can watch TV at school, at a friend’s house, or at any other place.
But this does not mean you cannot control the influence of television on your children. As a parent, you can decide how much TV your kid sees. If your kids are old enough to understand, then explain to them why you are limiting the screen time and how it can affect them; this might reduce the resistance.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How can television impact child development?
As mentioned earlier, television can affect a child’s brain development and influence their behavior. It can curb their physical activity, social interaction, and cognitive development in some cases.
2. Can babies and toddlers watch TV?
Experts recommend that children under two years of age should not be exposed to TV, as it can be detrimental to their cognitive, social, and physical development. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents allow more than 40% of infants and babies to watch TV. Just because the show is designed for infants and toddlers, does not mean it is right for them (9).
3. What is media violence?
Media violence is the portrayal of violent and aggressive behavior on screen for entertainment. The aggression is usually led by a human or a human-like character on screen (10).
Television can do good and also bad for your children. Remember that TV is not the villain. But it can become one if you do not use caution when exposing your children to it.
Share your opinions about children and television by using our comments section below.
2. 3D is OK for Most Kids, says the American Optometric Association; Consumer Reports
3. Screen time and children; American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
4. Steven L. Gortmaker; Television Viewing as a Cause of Increasing Obesity Among Children in the United States, 1986-1990; JAMA Network
5. Screen time and young children: Promoting health and development in a digital world; Pediatrics and Child Health
6. Childhood TV Viewing a Risk for Behavior Problems; Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
7. TV Violence and Children; American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
8. Media Violence; Pediatrics- The Official Journal Of Pediatrics
9. Kids and Digital Media; C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital
10. L. Rowell Huesmann; The Impact of Electronic Media Violence: Scientific Theory and Research; NCBI(2009)
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