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The more I think about it the more worried I get about the effects of TV on our children’s developing brains and minds.
The average time spent watching TV is over 27 hours per week for 2-to 5-year-olds and over 23 hours per week for 6-to 11-year olds.
The numbers get more worrisome when they are totaled. Children spend more time in front of the TV set than in any other activity except sleeping. By age 18, children and adolescents will have spent more hours watching TV (15,000 to 18, 000) than in the classroom (12,000). By the time they are 70, today’s children will have watched 7 years of TV!
What are TV’s downsides?
o Undue exposure to VIOLENCE. The evidence that TV violence increases the likelihood of aggressive behavior in children, especially in boys, is compelling.
o Undue exposure to what I call UNREALISTIC SEX with 14,000 explicit references to sex per year and only 175 references to contraception or sexually transmitted diseases. On the soaps, mention of sex between unmarried partners is 24 times more common than sex between married partners.
o CONSUMERSIM has reached new lows: there are now more than 70 program-length commercials to sell toy products (this type of marketing to innocent children has been referred to recently as “electronic child abuse”).
o Encouragement of POOR HEALTH HABITS–couch potatoes not only aren’t exercising but they are being exposed to junk food commercials. We all know that overeating without exercise is the formula for obesity. And even more troublesome, 53 percent of children with elevated cholesterol levels watched 2 or more hours of TV daily compared to 34 percent of control children with normal cholesterols levels. In addition people shown on TV from news anchors to actors to those who spout commercials are almost all thin which may be contributing to the increase in the incidence of anorexia nervosa.
o STEREOTYPING abounds. Entire groups of people like the elderly are shown as feeble or are underrepresented. The cartoons stereotype villains as foreigners. Teen-age girls are shown obsessed with makeup, shopping, and boys while intelligent girls are portrayed as misfits. Women are portrayed in both programs and commercials as traditional homemakers though more than 60 per cent of mothers are employed outside the home.
o Television is the epitome of PASSIVITY. Children who watch a lot of TV sit like zombies in front of the set.
o TV exerts a DISPLACEMENT effect on children. The time they spend in front of the TV set is time they are not spending reading, interacting with friends, or thinking and dreaming about their future.
o TV, although theoretically a wonderful educational medium, does NOT PROMOTE COGNITIVE LEARNING. As a matter of fact recent studies show that TV watching more than 1 or 2 hours a day has a deleterious effect on reading scores.
o Children imitate what they see and hear and I notice an “EPIDEMIC OF SASSINESS” today. Kids are rude and loud just like the ones on Rugrats.
I don’t recommend throwing out the TV set because there are some programs that every child should watch like men walking on the moon or the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. And TV can be a boon to the sick child who has to stay home from school for a few days.
What can parents do?
o Limit TV to NO MORE THAN 1 TO 2 HOURS PER DAY.
o Don’t leave the TV on as background to your family life. Your TV set is an appliance and can and should be turned off when not in use.
o Don’t watch a lot of TV yourself. Children are more apt to do what we do rather than what we say.
o Watch TV with your children so you can interpret what they see in terms of your own family’s values.
o If you can’t watch TV with your children screen the programs or rent suitable videos. Always know what your child is watching. Do not let your children play “channel roulette” or they may end up watching perfectly terrible things.
o Let your children see you reading, engaged in sports, etc. because you are their role model.
o Do not let young children watch MTV! Music videos combine all the dreadful things about TV: sex, violence especially violence against women, alienation from society, and stereotyping.
o Encourage your children to lead active lives off the couch. Let them invite friends over to play, expose them to sports, give them music lessons, teach them how to play board and card games, expect them to do chores, encourage them to do art work by having supplies available at home.
Let me offer a couple of suggestions to all the tired mothers out there who use TV as an electronic babysitter while they fix dinner (I was on of those tired mothers myself). Teach the children how to cook so they can help you in the kitchen. Even a 4 year old can set a table. Alternatively, let the children read to you while you are cooking.
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