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Television is one of the greatest inventions of all time. Through television we have witnessed history in real time. The technology of television has broadened our horizons by bringing faraway places into our homes, revealing the diversity of science and nature, and exposing us to sights and sounds that we can only dream about. Television has the power to inform, inspire, and unite. As adults, we are aware of the mesmerizing effects of television. Television has become a staple in our lives. In fact, most of us have televisions in every room of our house. The average family has the television on for 6.2 hour s each day. As adults, television can influence what we buy, where we go, and what we eat. With the television having such an impact on our lives, it is bound to have an effect on our children's lives. Today's children are exposed to violence, sex, and drugs through television. How much does television influence children? We are able to make informed decisions and understand the ramifications of our actions, but children are not. So, is television viewing harmful for children? This has been the question and debate for parents since the television was first introduced in the 1940's. To make an informed decision, it is important for us to understand the positive and negative effects of television viewing for children.
With the recent explosion in satellite and digital TV, we now have access to a plethora of both good and bad quality content. Parents should seek out good quality TV and whenever possible, enjoy them together as a family. Some studies indicate that television viewing properly used in moderation can stimulate a child's education and creativity. Television today offers children a wide variety of wonder, amusement, and education. The mysteries of the deep sea, the wonders of outer space and the animal varieties in the natural world can delight children and stimulate their imagination without exposing them to any danger. Kids may be entertained for hours with programs that engage their sense of seeing and hearing. Parents are able to go about their daily routines at home, knowing that their children are safe and occupied in one location. Programs designed to teach children such as "Sesame Street" and "Dora the Explorer"
Expose Children to vocabulary, math, science, history, art and diversity before they go to school. Because of its ability to create powerful touchstones, TV enables young people to share cultural experiences with others. T.V. can teach children important values and life lessons. News, events, and historical programming can help make young people more aware of other cultures and people. Television viewing is also beneficial for the family. Shared viewing gives family members of all ages an opportunity to spend time together.
Despite its advantages, too much television can be detrimental. Children under 6, including two-thirds of infants and toddlers, watch an average of 2 hours a day. Kids and teens 8 to 18 years spend nearly 4 hours a day in front of a TV screen, and almost 2 additional hours on the computer and playing video games. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids under 2 years old not watch any television and that those older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours per day. The first 2 years of life are considered a critical time for brain development. TV and other electronic media can get in the way of exploring, playing, and interacting with parents and others, which encourages learning and healthy physical and social development. As kids get older, too much screen time can interfere with activities such as being physically active, reading, doing homework, playing with friends, and spending time with family. Children who consistently spend more than 4 hours per day watching television are more likely to be overweight. Health experts have long linked excessive TV watching to obesity. While watching TV, kids are inactive and tend to snack. They're also bombarded with ads that encourage them to eat unhealthy foods. The problem isn't just how long children are watching TV but, what they are watching. The average American child will witness 200,000 violent acts on television by age 18. Kids may become desensitized to violence and more aggressive. TV violence is often perpetuated by the "good guys" as fun and an effective way to get what they want. Young kids are particularly frightened by scary and violent images. Behavior problems, nightmares, and difficulty sleeping may be a consequence of exposure to media violence. TV is full of programs and commercials that depict risky behaviors ,such as sex and substance abuse,risky and fun. For example, studies have shown that teens who watch lots of sexual content on TV are more likely to initiate intercourse or participate in other sexual activities earlier than peers who don't watch sexually explicit shows. A recent study by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth found that youth exposure to alcohol ads on TV increased by 30% from 2001-2006.
As mentioned earlier, parents should search for high quality TV programs for their kids. How do you choose good TV? David Kleeman, Director of the American Center for Children and media, says ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this program actively engage my child, physically or intellectually?
Television viewing doesn't have to be passive. It can prompt questions, kindle curiosity, or teach activities to pursue when the set if off.
- Do I respect this program?
Parents don't have to like every show their children like. But parents should trust that a programs creator understand and respect how children grow and learn.
- Does my child see others like himself or herself on television?
Young children believe that television reflects the real world. To not see people like themselves may diminish their self-worth.
- How do the makers of this program regard my child?
Some program creators see young people as consumers to be sold to. Others see them as students to be educated, as future citizens to be engaged in the community, or simply as children. whose work is play.
Parents should monitor the child's television viewing. They should limit the amount of time that the child watches TV. To avoid the negative aspects of television and commercials, parents can record shows without the commericals or buy children's videos or DVD'S.
Is Television Viewing Harmful for Children? In my opinion, no. What could be harmful for children is what they watch and for how long. Children's advocates are divided when it comes to solutions. Although many urge for more hours per week of educational programming, others assert that no TV is the best solution. Some say it's better for parents to control the use of TV and to teach kids that it's for occasional entertainment, not for constant escapism. Many parents and teachers have different views and this debate will carry on for centuries to come. There is powerful research and opinions on both sides of the debate. Ultimately the decision is up to the parent. Armed with information and knowledge the parent can make the correct decision for them, their children and their family. As a teacher, I can share with the parents my knowledge of TV viewing and its effects, both positive and negative. In the classroom, I can encourage play, reading, and social interaction. I can introduce children to our world through play, field trips, and books. I can provide the children with healthy snacks and encourage them to make healthy decisions regarding food, exercise, and television viewing. I can provide parents with information and resources that is offered by the school and the community. Children are influenced by those around them. They emulate what they see. As teachers and parents, we should be good role-models. How can we expect children to not smoke, drink, act violent ,eat poorly, or watch too much television if we are doing those things? Television cannot be blamed for problems with children. It is ultimately up to the parents to monitor their child, communicate with their child and instill in their child values and beliefs that help them make good decisions in their life.