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TV and Your Teen

— State: Rhode Island Department of Education
Updated on Sep 30, 2009

TV Has a Powerful Impact on Young People

Children and teens in the US spend an average of 3 to 4 hours a day watching TV. They spend more time sitting in front of electronic screens (TVs, computers, and video games) than they do on any other activity besides sleeping. Some of this time may be educational and entertaining. But it may also be full of images of violence, sexuality, stereotypes, drugs, and alcohol. Kids are also bombarded with TV advertisements on products they do not need, including unhealthy foods and snacks.

Research shows the impact of TV on children and teens is mostly negative. Violence on TV has been linked to real-life aggressive or violent behavior by kids. Many studies have also shown that the more TV kids watch, the more likely they are to become obese. Obesity is linked to several major health problems, including asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and sleep apnea (a sleep disorder) among young people. In addition, kids who watch a lot of TV are likely to read less than other students. They are more likely to get lower grades in school. They may also be more likely to smoke, use alcohol or drugs, have a poorer body concept and self-image, and be sexually active as teens.

Parents Can Make a Difference

Parents can shape how TV affects their kids by setting limits on how much they watch and what they watch, by talking to them, and by setting a good example.

Set Limits on TV and Other Media for Your Teen or Pre-Teen

  • Set rules on how much TV they can watch. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming (and no TV for kids under 2). Consider a weekly limit, too. Avoid letting children watch large blocks of TV (i.e. 4 hours straight) by having them choose specific programs to watch.
  • Set rules about when they can watch TV. For example, no TV until homework or chores are finished; no TV late at night or on a school night; no TV during dinner, etc.
  • Set limits about what they can watch. Teens can handle more serious programs than younger kids can. But it is still important to limit the amount of violent, sexual, or stereotyping material they are exposed to. Get to know the TV rating system or use the TV guide to help you decide what is okay. When you can, watch shows with your teen and discuss what they are seeing with them.
  • Help them balance TV with other activities. Don't just tell them to watch less. Encourage them to spend time finding and doing other activities they enjoy such as: reading, music/arts, sports, hobbies, outdoor play, social activities, family activities, etc.
  • Turn the TV off during dinner. Try using this time for talking and being together as a family.
  • Turn the TV off when nobody is watching a program. Avoid using the TV as background "white" noise. This increases the amount of time kids are exposed to negative images and advertising. Try playing music instead.
  • Keep TVs out of kids' bedrooms.Kids who have a TV in their room are more likely to spend more time watching TV, watch programs they otherwise wouldn't be allowed to, stay up late and get less sleep, and be socially isolated. They are also much more likely to become obese.
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