Limit Television, Limit the Effects
In order to doom a child, just involve the television. While television can be good in small, educational doses, the amount of time a child spends in front of the TV directly affects the performance in many important fields of a child’s life. Academics, health, physical performance, character, and safety: they are all negatively affected by television. Through the learning process, children do what they see. Should they really be seeing what television offers?
Americans have an obsession with television, and it has taken on a large role in the lives of children. Statistics show that 68% of 8 to 18 year olds have a TV, 54% have a DVD player, 37% have cable or satellite TV, and 20% have premium channels in their bedroom (Boyse). The question arises: is this healthy?
How much time should children spend each day in front of the TV? The average American child watches 4 hours of television per day. Added up, that’s 28 hours per week, 120 hours per month, and a whopping 1,460 hours per year.
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That’s nearly 400 more hours than the average public school student spends in classes in one year (Facts). Studies have shown that this excessive intake of television is detrimental to children’s health, academics, and behavior (Boyse). These effects can continue on into adulthood and become lifelong problems. The amount of time spent watching TV needs to be cut down to no more than 1 hour per day so that these effects can be greatly minimized.
Television affects children in two ways: through the content viewed on the screen and through the activity of watching the shows. What is seen on the screen can become a role model for children. In the process of learning, children copy what they see, and if they spend much of their time watching television, they may begin to emulate what is shown to them. This has been known to increase aggressive behaviors in children (Facts). Since children spend so much time in front of the screen, it replaces time spent with doing healthy, positive activities. Children who spend more time watching television are less likely to develop interest in hobbies such as music and art, and they spend less quality time with their families. These negative effects are things that nobody should allow to have influencing their child’s life. Instead, parents should take action and limit the time their children spend in front of the television to 1 hour per day.
Family life is affected by television. All the time spent in front of a screen is time not quality family time. In the past it had been much more common for families to spend their dinnertimes sitting around the table talking about what is going on in their lives. Studies now show that in 63% of American households, the TV is ‘usually’ on during dinner (Boyse). Parents have to work to snatch a moment of time with their teen children, but now the together time during a meal is given over to a colorful moving screen. This shows the growing rift that children and their parents are developing because of the role of television in their lives. TV has begun to replace the irreplaceably important concept of family time. While the average child spends about 4 hours each day watching television, he or she only spends 38.5 minutes per week in quality conversation with his or her parents. This reflects the changing priorities in today’s families. Relationships have been replaced with time spent alone watching television. When asked, 54% of 4 to 6 year-olds actually said that they would rather watch TV than spend time with their fathers. There is an obvious problem when children do not value their parents or want to be with them.
The replacement of parent-child relationships with television changes a child’s development. Kids copy what they see, so some emulate their parents. However, when children watch how people act on TV more than how their parents behave, they will begin to copy what they see. In some children’s lives, television has taken on a role as a model for behavior. The behavior children observe on so many shows, even on channels such as the Disney Channel, shows children talking back and disobeying their parents, as well as children trying to get away with mischief behind their parents’ backs. The children viewing the programs then often copy these behaviors seen on TV. By cutting back the time children spend watching TV and increasing the time they spend with their family, parents could better influence the values, habits, and actions of their children.
One major influence of television upon kids is in their diet. Of the 20,000 commercials that the average child views during a year, food products and fast-food restaurants are the number one advertisement (Herr). These advertisements encourage bad eating habits, which can lead to obesity, a growing American ‘epidemic.’ The number of cases of obesity among children 6 to 10 years old has more than doubled in the past 20 years. In 1980, only 6.5% of the children were severely overweight, compared to the 17% seen in 2006 (Herr). Food advertisements often portray their food as healthy, and they sometimes give information regarding ‘healthy’ eating. However, ads can be deceiving and don’t always give completely true or balanced information about food choices. Children, though, tend to believe what they are told, even by advertisers, leading to an unrealistic view on a healthy diet (Boyse).
Along with food advertisements, the activity of watching television raises the chance of children becoming overweight. Studies show that one’s metabolism slows down even more when watching TV than when sitting still, doing nothing. The more television children watch, the fewer calories their bodies will burn. Even while reading a book or talking on the phone, a child will burn more calories (Boyse). Also, watching television ensures that a child is not exercising. With less time being spent outdoors running around and playing sports, children will be less physically fit and more likely to develop weight problems that can carry on into their adulthood (Boyse). Even though a child may watch a few hours of something educational like the Discovery or History channel, it is still television, meaning the time is spent inactively. The easiest way to reduce this inactivity, says Tufts University School of Medicine’s pediatrician and obesity expert William H. Deitz, ‘[I]s to turn off the TV set. Almost anything else uses more energy than watching TV.'(Herr)
Television can also take a large toll on children’s academics. Most children view around 20 hours of TV per week, and studies have shown that anything over 10 hours can negatively affect achievements in school (Facts). Though children may watch educational television programs, the fact remains that those programs are still TV, which can be detrimental to academics. As the presence of television has grown in children’s lives, the ‘knowledge’ it provides has also made its presence known. While 75% of teens ages 13-17 know that the zip code 90210 can be found in Beverly Hills, only 25% can tell you that the US Constitution was written in Philadelphia (Facts). This shows the status television has taken on in teen’s lives in comparison to that of academic knowledge.
Since so much time is spent in front of the television, other activities are put on the backburner. Less time is put aside for activities that are known to boost academics, such as reading, doing homework, working on hobbies, and sleeping (Boyse). Therefore, with less time spent in books, a toll is taken on reading comprehension, a skill that is crucial all throughout life. Several studies have even proven that by watching more television, a child’s chances of dropping out of school are increased and chances of getting a college degree are decreased (Boyse).
Television is filled with violence not only in adult shows, but also in cartoons, comedies, movies, and the news. It is estimated that by the time an average child finishes elementary school he or she will have seen 8,000 murders on TV, and by the time they reach the age of 18, they will have witnessed 200,000 acts of violence, 16,000 of which are murders (Facts). The ‘bad guys’ aren’t the only ones solving problems with violence these days. The end justifies the means seems to be a rather popular slogan for superhero movies. Not too many people die and not too much blood is shed, but ‘BAM!’ ‘POW!’ ‘fists sure do seem to solve a lot. When children see their favorite heroes saving the world through violence, these actins seem right, and violence stops being ‘bad.’ (Scheibe) It is viewed as an acceptable way to solve problems and handle tough situations. Studies show that children who watch more TV are more likely to exhibit signs of aggression (Boyse). 73% of Americans even contend that television is responsible for juvenile crime (Facts).
Acts of violence on TV have the greatest effect on children ages 8 and younger, because they have not yet developed a complete sense of what is fake versus what is reality (Boyse). To them, the monster from a movie might really be hiding under their bed. Scary scenes from movies are viewed as something that could easily happen to the child in real life. This can lead young children to believe that the world is a very cruel and scary place, causing sleep problems and a fear of leaving the house (Boyse). Even by watching the news, kids can be frightened that they could become a victim of violence or a natural disaster. In some cases, this has been known to lead to trauma or paranoia (Boyse).
With television having so many harmful effects on children’s lives, parents need to take action. This everyday activity that Americans spend so much time doing hinders children’s learning and growing experiences. Shouldn’t children get the full experience of the best years of their life instead of staying inside glued to a screen? Instead of allowing your children to spend 4 hours in front of the television, limit their viewing time to 1 hour per day and encourage them to take up other hobbies such as sports, music, and reading. As the people with your children’s best interests in mind, you have the responsibility to raise them healthily, removing harmful activities, such as watching excessive television, from their way.
Boyse, Kyla. ‘Television.’ University of Michigan Health System. May 2008. Association of Academic Health Centers. 8 Nov. 2008. .
‘Facts and Figures about our TV Habit.’ Elgin College. 2000. 8 Nov. 2008. .
Fox, Lauren. Carrigan, Laura. Poirier, Bernadette. Lynch, Danielle. Rowe, Jan. Vogrle, Laura. ‘Effects of Television Viewing on Children’s Daily Activities.’ The Department of Occupational Therapy. 2004. The University of Alabama at Birmingham. 8 Nov. 2008. .
Herr, Norman. ‘Television & Health.’ Internet Resources to Accompany The Resourcebook for Teaching Science. 2007. 8 Nov. 2008. .
Scheibe, Cyndy. ‘Television in the Lives of Children.’ CRETv. 8 Nov. 2008. .