Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Is TV Really So Bad for Kids?

Is TV Really So Bad for Kids?

WebMD Feature

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 disturbances."

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 early 20s.

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow