Television is one of the most common electrical appliances in our homes and almost all individuals are exposed to it at some time or other. With regards to children, they are among the heaviest users of television. Television is most often exposed to a child who instantly becomes accustomed to its presence. Young children spend between three and four hours watching television each day. It has played an important role in their lives and its viewing has been a favorite activity for many of them. “TV viewing among kids is at an eight-year high. On average, children ages 2-5 spend 32 hours a week in front of a TV—watching television, DVDs, DVR and videos, and using a game console. Kids ages 6-11 spend about 28 hours a week in front of the TV. The vast majority of this viewing (97%) is of live TV” (McDonough, 2009). “Media technology now offers more ways to access TV content, such as on the Internet, cell phones and iPods. This has led to an increase in time spent viewing TV, even as TV-set viewing has declined. 41% of TV-viewing is now online, time-shifted, DVD or mobile” (Roberts, 2005). “In about two-thirds of households, the TV is “usually” on during meals” (Rideout, 2010).
“In 53% of households of 7th- to 12th-graders, there are no rules about TV watching” (Roberts, 2005). “In 51% of households, the TV is on “most” of the time” (Roberts, 2005). Television has its good side. It can be entertaining and educational, and can open up new worlds for kids, giving them a chance to travel the globe, learn about different cultures, and gain exposure to ideas they may never encounter in their own community. Shows with a prosocial message can have a positive effect on kids’ behavior; programs with positive role models can influence viewers to make positive lifestyle changes. However, the reverse can also be true: kids are likely to learn things from television that parents don’t want them to learn. Television can affect kids’ health, social behavior and brain development in negative ways. Negative Effects of Television on Children
Television viewing before the age of three may have adverse effects on later cognitive development, according to a study in the July issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the Archives journals. Although many children’s programs contain educational content, exposure to this material does not actually appear to make children smarter. Only a handful of programs teach children important skills such as math, reading, science or problem solving. Most of the shows on television, including cartoons, are non-educational. More time spent watching these shows is linked with poorer school performance overall and decreased scores on standardized tests. This makes sense when you consider that more time spent in front of a television means less time spent on homework or having stimulating interactions with adults or other children. In addition, late night television watching tires kids out so that they can’t pay attention in school. Also, television hands kids all the answers, promoting passive learning. As a result, kids have difficulty concentrating and working hard to solve a problem. Brain Development
As an educational tool, television has helped prepare preschoolers for their first classroom experience through programs that teach letters, numbers, colors, names of objects and even how to play well with others. These shows impart the message that learning is a lot of fun through music, games, action and lovable, funny characters. However, children hooked on television are not as likely to engage in imaginative play, develop hobbies or discover the joy of independently reading books outside of those assigned in school as homework. The less exposure to reading, the smaller the vocabulary, leading to greater challenges in being a competent writer. Reading and Language Development
Reading is one of the most important skills for children to develop in their early years of education. Children who watch a lot of television at a young age are less likely to read. Children who live in households where the television is almost always on are at risk for reading difficulties. “One-third of children under age six grew up in homes where the television was almost always on. Children from these homes spent less time reading and being read to and were less proficient in reading on their own” (Vandewater, n.d.). It is likely that parents who restrict their children’s television viewing at early ages are likely to behave in ways that facilitate children’s learning in other ways as well. Children who live in “heavy-television” households where the television is on most or all of the time tend to watch more television and read less than other children. Language Delays
[Researchers] conducted a study to determine the relationship between the effects of television viewing before the age of three and language delays. They found that children who started watching television at two years of age or younger were approximately six times more likely to have language delays. In addition, researchers found that these infants did not watch educational media; they watched cartoons created for older children. The majority of children studied who had language delays started watching television around the age of ten months and over 60% of them watched television alone (Chonchaiya & Pruksananonda, 2008). It appears, then, that the most negative effects of television for children’s language development takes place at the earliest ages. Shorter Attention Span
Children who watched three or more hours of television a day were at risk for poor attention span and the accompanying learning difficulties. The nature of most television programming, with a rapid succession of different ideas and images in shows and commercials, tends to break down the ability to focus for extended periods of time. Social Development
“Socialization is the process of learning over time how to function in a group or society. It is a set of paradigms, rules, procedures, and principles that govern perception, attention, choices, learning, and development” (Dorr, 1982). Since the early age of broadcast television, educators and parents have been concerned about the effects of television on the socialization of children. During the hours that the television set is turned on, it plays a subtle role as a teacher of rules, norms, and standards of behavior (Huston, et al., 1992). Television is an influence on children from a very young age and affects their social development (Elkind, 2007; Wright, et al., 2001). Television is the medium with the greatest socialization effect, surpassing all the other media in its influence on the young child. Bandura (1971) states that although much social learning is fostered through observation of real life models, television provides symbolic, pictorially presented models. Because of the amount of time that people are exposed to models on television, “such models play a major part in shaping behavior and in modifying social norms and thus exert a strong inﬂuence on the behavior of children and adolescents” (Bandura & Walters, 1963, p. 49). Stereotyping
Durkin (1985) described stereotypes as being based on extreme characteristics attributed to the group, with usually negative values attached to that group. The less real-world information people have about social groups, the more inclined they are to accept the television image of that group. According to Gross (1991), nonrepresentation in the media maintains the powerless status of groups that possess insigniﬁcant material or power bases. He stated that mass media are especially powerful in cultivating images of groups for which there are few ﬁrst-hand opportunities for learning. Gender Stereotypes
Television viewing has been linked with sex-stereotyped attitudes and behaviors. Studies show a relationship between amount of viewing and sex-stereotyped attitudes, and experimental studies demonstrate that even brief exposure to television can increase or decrease sex-stereotyped behaviors, depending on the type of program viewed (Lipinski & Calvert, 1985). Several studies showed that women were portrayed on television as passive, dominated by men, deferential, governed by emotion or overly emotional, dependent, younger or less intelligent than men, and generally weak (Davis, et al, 1992). On the other hand, men on television tended to be active, dominant, governed by reason, and generally powerful (Liebert & Sprafkin, 1988). Signorielli and Lears (1992) found a signiﬁcant relationship between heavy television viewing and sex-stereotyped ideas about chores for preadolescent children. They found that children who watched more television were more likely to say that only girls should do the chores traditionally associated with women, and only boys should do those associated with men. Children learn at an early age about gender roles and ethics by imitating the behaviors of portrayed on television. Minority Stereotypes
The effects of television on beliefs and perceptions related to ethnicity have not received as much attention as those related to sex roles. Because children are less likely to have contact with people of different racial or ethnic backgrounds, television may be the primary source of information about minorities. In the early days of television, “blacks” appeared in minor roles, frequently as servants or as comedians. Black characters were younger, poorer, and less likely to be cast in professional occupations, dramatic, or romantic roles. They often appeared in segregated environments. Children are particularly vulnerable to negative portrayals of African-Americans. “Black children are ambivalent about their racial identity, and studies still show that many prefer whites, prefer to be white, and prefer white characters on television to characters like themselves” (Comer, 1982, p. 21). Elderly Stereotypes
The elderly have been under-represented on television, occupying a very small percentage on television roles. Bishop and Krause (1984) found that over 90 percent of the comments made about the elderly were negative. The elderly were also portrayed as unhappy and having problems they could not solve themselves. According to Davis (1986), they were shown as “more comical, stubborn, eccentric, and foolish than other characters. They are more likely to be treated with disrespect” (Bell, 1991, p. 3). Disability Stereotypes
According to the World Health Organization, disability is “any restriction or lack (resulting from an impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being” (Cumberbatch & Negrine, 1992, p. 5). Television tends to concentrate on the disability rather than on the individual aspects of the character portrayed. People with disabilities wish to be treated as ordinary people on television, not as superheroes or villains or with sentimentality. Characters with disabilities were shown to have locomotor or behavioral disabilities since these are visible. In ﬁlms, characters with disabilities were stereotyped most commonly as criminals, as being barely human, or as powerless and pathetic. Violence
The fact that television contains certain violent acts is undeniable. Television violence sometimes begs for imitation because violence is often promoted as a fun and effective way to get what you want. Many violent acts are perpetrated by the “good guys,” whom kids have been taught to admire. Even though kids are taught by their parents that it’s not right to hit, television says it’s okay to bite, hit, or kick if you’re the good guy. This can lead to confusion when kids try to understand the difference between right and wrong. And the “bad guys” on television aren’t always held responsible or punished for their actions. Huston et al. (1992) concluded that children and adults who watched a large number of aggressive programs also tended to hold attitudes and values that favored the use of aggression to resolve conﬂicts, even when factors such as social class, sex-role identity, education level, or parental behavior were controlled. Fear
Young kids are particularly frightened by scary and violent images. Simply telling kids that those images aren’t real won’t console them, because they can’t yet distinguish between fantasy and reality. Behavior problems, nightmares, and difficulty sleeping may follow exposure to media violence. Older kids also can be frightened by violent images, whether they appear on fictional shows, the news, or reality-based shows. Reasoning with kids this age will help them, so it’s important to provide reassuring and honest information to help ease fears. However, consider not letting your kids view programs that they may find frightening. Risky behaviors
Television is full of programs and commercials that depict risky behaviors (such as drinking alcohol, doing drugs, smoking cigarettes, and having premarital sex) as cool, fun, and exciting. And often, there’s no discussion about the consequences of those actions. Sex
Delgado (2009) says that “Television is one of the leading sources of information about sex for kids”. Most parents don’t talk to their kids about sex and relationships. Most schools do not offer complete sex education programs. So kids get much of their information about sex from the television. Sexual content is a real presence on television. Soap operas, music videos, prime time shows and advertisements all contain lots of sexual content, but usually nothing about contraception. “The number of sex scenes on television has nearly doubled since 1998, with 70% of the top 20 most-watched shows by teens including sexual content” (Kunkel, 2005). “Watching sex on TV increases the chances a teen will have sex, and may cause teens to start having sex at younger ages. Even viewing shows with characters talking about sex increases the likelihood of sexual initiation” (Collins, 2004). Watching sexual content on TV is linked to becoming pregnant or being responsible for a pregnancy. Alcohol Use
The presence of alcohol on television runs the range from drinking or talking about drinking on primetime shows, to beer ads, to logos displayed at sporting events. Alcoholic drinks are the most common beverage portrayed on the television, and that they are almost never shown in a negative light. Exposure to drinking in movies increases the likelihood that viewers themselves will have positive thoughts about drinking. Television ads are a major factor in normalizing alcohol use in the minds of children. Ads for alcohol portray people as being happier, sexier, and more successful when they drink. Alcohol advertising, including television ads, contributes to an increase in drinking among youth.
Children see smoking glorified on television. Even though tobacco ads are forbidden on television, young people still see people smoking on programs and movies shown on television. “Kids who watch more TV start smoking at an earlier age” (Gutschoven, 2005). “Exposure to smoking in movie characters increases the likelihood that viewers will associate themselves with smoking” (Dal Sin, 2007). Health Issues
“Children from birth to age five are actively growing, learning and developing habits that will shape their physical and emotional health. Because this time period is so crucial to the development of a child’s body and brain, any negative influences can have lifelong health effects. Excessive television viewing among young children has been linked to negative impacts on lifelong physical health.” (Jamil, 2005) Nutrition and Obesity
Excessive television watching has a tendency to result in obesity or being overweight, which is a significant health problem today. While watching the television, kids are inactive and tend to get snacks. They’re also bombarded with ads that encourage them to eat unhealthy foods like potato chips and acidic soft drinks that often become preferred snack foods. Many television ads encourage unhealthy eating habits. According to the University of Michigan researchers, “two-thirds of the 20,000 television ads an average child sees each year are for food and most are for high-sugar foods. After-school television ads target children with ads for unhealthy foods and beverages, like fast food and sugary drinks.” “While watching television, the metabolic rate seems to go even lower than during rest” (Klesges, 1993). This means that a person would burn fewer calories while watching television than when just sitting quietly, doing nothing. Lack of Physical Activity
Children who watch more television don’t get as much physical activity and don’t have time to explore new activities in the same way as children who spend less time in front of a screen. Decreasing the amount of television kids watched led to less weight gain and lower body mass index. Injury
Due to curiosity, children are most likely to mimic stunts from the television. Injuries are the leading cause of death in children, and watching unsafe behavior on television may increase children’s risk-taking behavior. Kids have been injured trying to repeat dangerous stunts they have seen on television shows. Sleep Problems
Regular sleep schedules are an important part of healthy sleep. Infants and toddlers who watch television have more irregular sleep schedules. Television viewing is associated with altered sleeping patterns and sleeping disorders among children.
Television viewing is uncontrollable in children’s lives. In fact, it is already part mostly in the everyday life of children. As they watch television, there are probable effects that may come out afterwards. There could be positive effects of television viewing on children, but the
contrary prevails. There are certain negative effects of television on children’s brain and social development and some health issues will be observed. These effects are somewhat dependent on the children’s age and the content of the program while watching television. Children who watch television with the age of three and after have the chance of acquiring positive effects of television. But children watching television below the age of three, which is most observable nowadays, have a high chance of acquiring the negative effects of television.
As parents, they play an important role in guiding their children at times of television watching. Parents should pay attention to what the children watch, talk with them about it, and place some limits on screen time. Infants do not need screen time at all, young children should be exposed to as little as possible, and all screen time should be viewed together with adults, whom children can talk about what they’re watching. Watching television with your kids can be lots of fun. These hours you have together on the screen can be spent talking and interacting with them. But parents should remember that more than the television, the most entertaining experiences they can have with their children are in real conversations, storytelling, sharing, and laughter.