Why Is TV Bad For Kids?

With opinions ranging from television encouraging bad parenting to the obesity epidemic, it's clear that many leading researchers and a whole host of armchair psychologists hold television in poor regard. While careful monitoring and limited viewing time will hardly create any issues, the fact that children spend a large part of their lives locked in front of a screen can certainly lead to problems later on down the line both socially and physically. Taking a look at some of the largest concerns can help a parent to create a responsible viewing schedule for their own child to adhere to.

The Effects of Too Much Television on the Body

It's no secret that sitting idly all day can lead to issues with weight. For a developing body, placing strain on growing bones can be even more harmful. On average, children spend six hours a day in front of a screen. That's more time than many spend sleeping and also more than some spend in classrooms. With television dominating the daily activities, that leaves little time for outside play or other physical activities.

While there are social consequences to this form of isolation as well, physical symptoms are the most obvious. Children who are inactive perform poorly in physical education classes, and the extra weight they carry can lead to diabetes and heart problems. Furthermore, added weight can create conflict among peers at school who may bully a child for a lack of fitness. With more active peers, a child may be further isolated, unable to perform physical tasks or play for the same length of time.

Beyond obesity, staring at a screen continually can lead to eye strain, increasing the likelihood of headaches and necessitating the use of glasses, another common social stigma for children. Parents who authorize more than two hours of television time for their children should encourage their children to take breaks to allow their eyes to focus on other distances. Furthermore, parents should keep healthy foods on-hand as children tend to snack frequently when viewing television.

The Social Effects of Too Much Television

In the modern world, television has become a crutch for many parents who struggle through multiple jobs while juggling a home life as well. While children may spend six hours a day watching television, it is unlikely that they spend that time with their parents, which means less opportunities for developing a parent-child bond. In several studies, watching television with a child also diminished the amount of communication between a parent and child when compared to reading a book together, which encouraged asking questions, labeling objects and shared interaction.

Television programs may inform while they entertain, but many employ a gratuitous amount of violence, sexual content, morally questionable choices and activities, drug use and overall mature situations. Even stories with heroic characters can create confusion in developing minds as children may not understand why it is okay to sometimes injure or murder people as long as the person doing so is the "good guy." Television is full of violent scenarios, which can lead to aggression and anti-social behavior in children when among peers. Even children who do not experience increased hostility may be overwhelmed by violence in other ways via nightmares or anxiety.

Even parents who carefully monitor the shows they allow their children to watch should be wary because commercials are not always targeted to the same demographic. Many commercials depict violent situations or sexual situations, and because many parents do not discuss these topics in detail with their children, these images can form a lasting impression on how the world works. Parents concerned about commercials during approved programming should consider channels like public-funded channels, which limit advertising.

Watching Television Smartly

Television doesn't have to be a negative impact on the life of a child. Parents should begin by setting limits on the frequency of viewing and then on what is watched. All televisions are equipped with what is called a "V-chip," which allows parents to block programming. Before allowing a child to watch a show, parents should investigate the show first to better understand its potential impact. Furthermore, parents can reinforce that television viewing is a privilege, not a right; instead of allowing casual viewing, parents can opt for weekend viewing or only after homework and chores are completed.

For those parents who want to reduce their child's reliance on television, begin first by encouraging other activities like family board games or a night out. Keep books and toys near the television to allow children the freedom to make better choices for themselves. Parents should also opt to watch television with their children and then encourage feedback to improve the parent-child bond and create a clear line of communication. Finally, when questionable situations are portrayed, parents should use those moments as an opportunity to teach moral lessons and encourage critical thinking.