The Effects of Television Viewing
Watching television is more accurately described as entertainment than play, but it is in reality a tool for both. Watching programs is one side of the picture; using the equipment for video games is another. Whatever the purpose, American children watch television an average 3 to 5 hours per day (Spencer, 2003).
The effects of television viewing on children has been widely researched. As early as 1985, the National Coalition on Television Violence (1985) identified more than 850 studies and reports of 120,000 people of all ages, in 20 nations, showing the harm of viewing television violence. The most common effects were increases in anger and irritability, loss of temper, increased verbal aggression, increased fear and anxiety, and a desensitization toward violence. The studies also documented increases in fighting, distrust and dishonesty, decreases in sharing and cooperation, increases in depression, willingness to rape, and actual criminal behavior.
By 2003, the U.S. Department of Education Educational Resources Information Center Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education (ERIC, 2003) reported research demonstrating these and additional negative effects of television viewing including violent or overly aggressive behavior, precocious sexuality, obesity, and the use of drugs or alcohol. The ERIC system also reported studies showing that television negatively affects creativity, language skills, children’s learning, and school achievement. The effects of television violence may also result in immunity to the horror of violence, acceptance of violence as a way to solve problems, imitation of television violence, and identifying with characters, victims and/or victimizers (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1999).
The growing prevalence of computers at home and school has led to what could be called a “culture of the flickering mind” (Oppenheimer, 2003, p. xx). The “flickering mind” defines a generation poised between having a chance to become confident, creative, constructive problem solvers or becoming victims of commercial motives and novelties. American children appear to be a distracted lot, with diminishing attention span, listening and reasoning abilities, and fading empathy. However, television has two faces. Long-respected researchers Dorothy and Jerome Singer (2005) conclude that some television time can enrich children’s creativity and play and promote readiness. On one hand, with guidance from adults, screen time can expand and intensify creativity, empathy, and imagination. On the other hand, they argue, violent games and television have the toxic effect of stimulating aggression and destructive ideas.
Taking research on television viewing into account, the American Pediatric Association, in 1990, recommended that children’s television viewing be limited to 10 hours per week. In 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that children under 2 should not watch TV at all and that no child should have a TV in the bedroom (Meltz, 2003). These recommendations seem reasonable if accompanied by responsible adult roles in planning and evaluating with children and in providing a range of alternative, developmentally relevant activities.
These activities should include the following:
- Limiting television viewing time to 1 to 2 hours per day.
- Suggesting and participating in alternative activities.
- Planning television viewing with children to ensure that the children have a role in decision making and the adult remains in control.
- Monitoring children’s television viewing habits to ensure that acceptable programs are watched and time constraints are followed.
- Watching with children and discussing programs to help them learn to critically evaluate what they are watching.
- Helping children to develop alternative solutions to problems seen on television.
- Keeping objectionable programs out by installing filters, deleting channels, and setting a good model by refusing to watch objectionable programs.
- Helping children understand the difference in make-believe and real life—that characters on television are not hurt in violent scenes, but the same actions would inflict pain and suffering in real life.
- Discussing violence and sex openly but at the child’s level, so that children know where adults stand on the issues. Let them know your values and watch programs consistent with your values.
- Talking with other adults to help ensure that children are not exposed to objectionable programs away from home.
- Turning off objectionable programs and explaining why to children.
© ______ 2008, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
Washington Virtual Academies
Tuition-free online school for Washington students.
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- Child Development Theories
- Social Cognitive Theory
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- The Homework Debate
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- Problems With Standardized Testing