Television has a tremendous influence on how children view our world. Children spend more hours watching TV from birth to age 18 than they spend in the classroom. A positive aspect of TV viewing is the opportunity to see different lifestyles and cultures. Children today are entering school more knowledgeable than children before the era of TV. In addition, TV has great entertainment value. While TV can be a good teacher, many children watch TV excessively and experience some of the negative consequences described below.
It decreases time spent playing with peers. A child has less time for self-directed daydreaming and thinking. It takes away time for participating in sports, music, art, or other activities that require practice to achieve competence.
It reduces social interactions with family and friends.
Reading requires much more thinking than television. Reading improves a child's vocabulary. A decrease in reading scores may be related to too much time in front of the TV.
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.
An inactive lifestyle leads to poor physical fitness. If accompanied by frequent snacking, watching TV may contribute to weight problems.
Young children will pressure their parents to buy the toys they see advertised.
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. While TV violence does not increase aggressive behavior toward people in most children, it may do so in impulsive children.
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.
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 doing the same amount of reading time. Help your child improve his conversational skills by spending more of your time talking with him.
A reasonable limit is 1 hour on school nights and 2 or 3 hours a day on weekends. Occasionally you may want to allow extra viewing time for special educational programs. The limits are for TV and video game time combined.
Preschooler's viewing should be limited to special TV shows and videos 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.
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.
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. Do not put a TV in your child's bedroom because this stops you from controlling TV viewing.
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.
Turn the TV on for specific programs only. Don't turn it on at random and scan for something interesting. Teach your child to look first in the TV program guide.
If the TV stays on, your child will probably become interested in the following show and then it will be more difficult for your child to stop watching TV.
Encourage watching documentaries, or real-life dramas. If your child does see a program that includes love, sex, family disputes, drinking, or drugs, use it as a way to begin family discussions on these difficult topics.
This means you have to know what your child is watching and turn off the TV set when you don't approve of the program. This may even include news programs.
Develop separate lists of programs that are OK for older children and for younger kids to watch. Make your older children responsible for keeping the younger ones out of the TV room when they are watching programs not allowed for the younger children. If they don't keep them out, the show must be turned off.
The availability of cable television, videos, and DVDs means that any child of any age has access to the uncut versions of R-rated films. Many children under the age of 13 years develop daytime fears and nightmares because they have been allowed to watch these movies.
Most television programs are now rated. The TV ratings are:
Most newer television sets include a V-Chip so that you can block out TV shows with certain ratings. But remember, ratings are just guidelines. They cannot replace your good judgment. An educational animal show may have the same rating as a violent cartoon.
Point out how violence hurts both the victim and the victim's family. Be sure to discuss any program that upsets your child.
Help your children identify high-pressure selling and exaggerated claims. If your child wants a toy that is a look-alike version of a TV character, ask how he or she would use the toy at home. The response will probably convince you that the toy will be added to a collection rather than become something used for active play.
This type of clarification can help your child enjoy a show and yet realize that what is happening may not happen in real life.
If you watch a lot of TV, you can be sure your child will also. In addition, the types of programs you watch send a clear message to your child.