Thousands of studies have explored the effects of television on children. What do we know?
- Not all television is bad. TV offers educational opportunities, pro-social messages, and information that can expand children’s worldview.
- Children start watching TV younger than other forms of media, with children aged two to five watching an average of 32 hours of television shows, DVDs, DVRs, and video games.
- Many parents report that they encourage their toddlers to watch TV.
- Television takes time away from other important childhood experiences, such as playing outside, reading, practicing skills, and eating together as a family.
- Most TV shows do not teach values parents want children to learn. Many are violent, stereotypical, or glorify mean behavior.
- Advertisers target young viewers. Children see tens of thousands of commercials every year, including over 2,000 commercials for alcohol.
- Children who watch TV are more likely to be overweight than those who do not.
- Excessive TV viewing can cause sleep disturbances that can persist into adulthood.
While the impact of early childhood TV viewing is still unknown, the American Academy of Pediatrics takes a hard line on early viewing, strongly recommending that children under the age of two not watch TV at all. They point out that “talking, singing, reading, listening to music, or playing are far more important than any TV show.”
What’s a parent to do?
As with anything else, parental supervision is advised. Know what your kids are watching, and watch the show with them to discuss what is and isn’t appropriate. Monitor shows and limit those that are inappropriate, violent, or ill-suited to the child’s personality or tolerance level. Limit screen time and know what role you want TV to play in your family. Control your family’s TV so it isn’t controlling you.