Beware of the Negative Influence of Children's TV

Parents need to understand the negative influence of children's TV, even children's programming, on children's learning ability and health. Good things can come from television, but too much TV affects a child both physically and mentally. Here are some things to consider before putting your child in front of the TV.

No TV Before Two
Before the age of two, your child's brain develops rapidly, forming connections and pathways that will assist with learning later in life. Studies indicate that exposure to television, with its fast-moving images and rapid action, actually rewires a child's brain to crave this hyperactive stimulation. This can make it difficult for your child to focus on schoolwork or activities. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends that parents keep their kids away from all TV until after the age of two.

Violence in Children's Programming
Violence is highly prevalent in children's commercial programming, commercials, movies and music videos. The National Television Violence Study conducted over a three-year period concluded that between 10% and 20% of real-life violence may be associated with violence learned from the media. The National Television Violence Study defines TV violence using three criteria: "(a) intention to harm, (b) the physical nature of the harm, and (c) the involvement of animate beings."

Popular children's cartoons and situation comedies are filled with violent situations, including verbal abuse, weapons and characters using violence to solve problems. Violent acts on television are often unpunished, and the violence is applauded. This leads a child to believe that violence is acceptable. Young children may even try to emulate the things they see on TV, not realizing that they risk injuring themselves or others.

Consumer Cravings
Children under the age of six are not cognitively able to distinguish what's real from what's unreal when they watch TV. This leaves them vulnerable to accepting violent behavior as being positive. They are also highly susceptible to advertising.

If an ad tells children that a product is desirable, they believe it is true. That triggers a want or perceived need for the product, whether it is junk food, toys or new clothes. Seldom are healthy and creative things advertised on television. Television does not promote turning itself off in favor of reading or doing physical activity.

Shows aimed at children are sometimes nothing more than program-length commercials for toys and other items related to the show. Those products discourage creative play, because kids often limit their use of them to what they've seen on the TV show.

How to Control TV's Influence

  1. Turn the TV off. Replace TV time with creative and physical activities, reading and playing games with positive values and educational content.
  2. Be proactive. Choose educational programming or carefully chosen informative programs. Watch occasionally rather than often.
  3. Watch together. Discuss what is in the programs with your child. Compare the characters' actions with the values you wish to enforce and promote.
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