Is TV Really So Bad for Kids?
Is TV Really So Bad for Kids?
In the days when television screens were brimming with images
of "Father Knows Best" and "Ozzie & Harriet,"
parents barely gave a second thought when their youngsters spent a couple hours
in front of the tube. But TV isn't what it used to be. There are more than 100
channels available via cable in most American communities, and much of the
programming might send shock waves through parents raised on Captain Kangaroo
and Mr. Rogers.
Violence and sexual images are as much a part of today's
television fare as peanut butter ads and infomercials. A Surgeon General's
report last year concluded that 61% of all TV programming contains violence.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a child who watches
three to four hours a day of noneducational TV will see about 8,000
small-screen murders by the time he or she completes grade school.
That's unsettling news for parents and pediatricians alike. A
survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that more than four out of five
parents are concerned that their children are exposed to too much televised sex
and violence -- yet millions of youngsters are still enthusiastically watching
hours of TV daily, with little or no supervision.
American children spend an average of 6 hours, 32 minutes each
day watching TV or using other media (including the Internet, videotapes, video
games, and radio). That's more time than they devote to any other activity
except sleep, according to the AAP.
"Most parents don't spend the same amount of time -- about six hours a
day -- with their children," says child psychiatrist Michael Brody, MD,
chair of the television and media committee of the American Academy of Child
and Adolescent Psychiatry. "Television has a very big influence, and a lot
of it is negative. There are hundreds of studies showing a connection between
violence on TV and its impact on children -- from aggressive behavior to sleep
While experts concur that television can entertain and inform,
many programs may have an undeniably negative influence on childhood behavior
and values. Youngsters may become less sensitive to the terror of violence,
accept violence as a way to resolve life's difficulties, or even imitate the
violence they've seen.
A recent study by New York University School of Medicine
researchers concluded that preschool children who frequently watch violent TV
programs or play violent video games are 11 times more likely to engage in
aggressive and antisocial behavior than children not frequently exposed. A
study at the National Institute on Media and the Family, published in 2002,
found that third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade children who watch media violence
are more likely to treat their peers with rudeness and mean behavior.
In a study of more than 700 children, Columbia University
researchers found that adolescents who watch more than an hour a day of TV are
more prone to aggression and violence once they reach their late teens and