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Thursday, 13 November 2008 12:04

What's Wrong with a Little TV?

Written by  Esther Boylan Wolfson
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Television Is Great For Parents

Let's face it. We all need a break. Having a young child under your feet, needing your help or demanding your time can make it difficult, if not impossible to get things done. So we use the built-in babysitter. It's easy, it's free and it works.

Is TV Good For Young Kids?

While the TV may be a good thing for us parents, the fact is that the results of numerous studies conducted over the past decade show that spending a long time watching television is not good for kids.

Don't worry. I'm not about to tell you to throw away your TV. In my life and probably also in yours, it's just not realistic. But, like every decision that affects your children, you should be aware of how television viewing affects your young child and the risks and benefits you need to weigh in order to set the television viewing policy in your home. Just as you consider carefully the pre-school environment you choose for your child, you need to also evaluate your home environment carefully.

How Much TV Does Your Child Watch Each Day?

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that children under two- years-old should not watch any television and that older children should not be watching more one to two hours a day. For more information you can go to Television For Very Young Children.

Despite these recommendations, the average American child watches between 20 to 30 hours of television each week. This means that children spend more time watching television than any other single waking activity.

Sit for a minute and consider if this statistic applies to your child. If so, you should consider the following concerns that arise from young children spending too much time sitting in front of a television.

  • Television Reduces Learning And Discovery Time

    Here is one fact not based on formal studies, but based on my own personal observation as a pre-school teacher and a mother: young children learn by doing. I'm not saying that a child can't learn to count by watching Sesame Street. She will learn to count faster, however, if she counts the number of steps she needs to walk up to get to her house or the number of crayons she uses to draw a picture. There is no end to the number of facts a child will discover in his backyard or at the local park.

    Young children also need free time to learn through imaginative play. Just dressing up, building a castle out of blocks or sitting around daydreaming is essential for helping a young child to develop his imagination. If every free moment is spent in front of the TV, imaginative play will not happen.

  • Television Teaches Children To Expect Instant Gratification

    Watching television is always easy. The fun happens, it happens fast and you don't have to work to get it. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of real life. Instead, real life is a series of challenges that sometimes require slow and methodical work to get results.

  • Watching Television Violence Can Affect Your Child's Opinions And Behavior

    According to the American Psychological Association, watching lots of television violence can have the following three negative effects:

    • Children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others.
    • Children may become more fearful of the world around them.
    • Children may be more likely to behave in aggressive ways towards others.

    For the full text of the article, go to Children and Television Violence.

  • Television Watching Decreases Social Interaction Time

    Watching television takes away time that children might otherwise spend interacting with other children and developing much needed social skills. Make sure your young child spends plenty of time with real people and not just looking at a machine.

  • Television Watching Can Decrease Physical Activity

    Young children are always on the move. Movement is part of what has traditionally kept most young children thin and trim. A 1994 study of pre-school children found that over the course of the previous two decades, more four and five-year-old children are overweight. One suggested reason for this finding is the number of hours that young children are spending watching television, instead of moving, running and exploring their environments. (This study, Prevalence of Overweight Among Preschool Children in the United States, 1971 Through 1994, was published in PEDIATRICS Vol.99 No.4, April 1997. )

    Even if your child is not overweight, physical activity is essential for appropriate health, growth and development. Television is a passive activity and if your child spends too much time sitting and watching, it may affect his level of physical fitness. A child's physical coordination affects his learning ability, so children also need physical movement to help acquire age appropriate developmental skills.

    The possible negative physical effects of watching television are not mitigated by the quality of the television show your child watches. No matter how "educational" the television show is, it is simply not healthy for your child to spend a significant part of his life sitting and watching a screen.

I Thought You Said You Weren't Going To Tell Me To Throw Away The Television!

That's right. I did and I still won't. Instead, I want to answer the question I asked above: What's wrong with a little TV? Well, that depends on your definition of a "little TV." If you are referring to a short period of time, say less than an hour a day, then probably not much. If, however, that "little" bit of TV adds up to several hours a day, then probably a lot is wrong with a little TV.

If after reading this article, you are concerned that your child is watching more television than is good for her, take action. For help in making sure that your child's television viewing habits fall within reasonable limits, go to: Tips For Limiting TV Watching: You Can Do It

Last modified on Tuesday, 13 March 2012 15:39
Esther Boylan Wolfson

Esther Boylan Wolfson

Esther Wolfson , director of our Early Childhood Development Center is an Early Childhood Specialist, who received her BA in English Communications from Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University and an MA in Early Childhood Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, both in New York City. Esther worked as a pre-school special education teacher for seven years. Three of those years were spent working in a school for language delayed pre-schoolers, which is her area of specialty. Another special love of hers is cooking with young children. One of her most enjoyable projects was developing a program for cooking with pre-school children for three special education programs. Esther and her husband Myles have three boys aged eight, five and two-years-old. While her three lively boys and her work at WholeFamily, keep her quite busy, in her spare time (if she ever has any!) she is an avid reader who also enjoys creative writing, exercising and swimming.

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