TV Friend or Foe?

Most kids plug into the world of television long before they enter school. It it tempting to use TV as a baby sitter.

  • Two-thirds of infants and toddlers watch a screen an average of 2 hours a day . TV and videos or DVDs.

  • 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 (outside of schoolwork) and playing video games

Behavior problems, nightmares and difficulty sleeping may be a consequence of exposure to media violence.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under 2 years old not watch any TV and that those older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming. 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. When viewed for more than 20 hours a week, T.V. can seriously inhibit the development of verbal-logical, left brain functions. As kids get older, too much screen time can interfere with activities such as being physically active, reading, playing with friends, and spending time with family. Kids who view violent acts are more likely to show aggressive behaviour but also fear that the world is scary and that something bad will happen to them. TV characters often depict risky behaviours, such as smoking and drinking, and also reinforce gender-role and racial stereotypes.

That's why it's so important for you to monitor the content of TV programming and set viewing limits to ensure that your kids don't spend too much time watching TV.

Violence 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 sometimes begs for imitation because violence is often promoted as a fun and effective way to get what you want. Many violent acts are perpetrated by the "good guys," whom kids have been taught to emulate. Even though kids are taught by their parents that it's not right to hit, television says it's OK to bite, hit, or kick if you're the good guy. This can lead to confusion when kids try to understand the difference between right and wrong. And even the "bad guys" on TV aren't always held responsible or punished for their actions. Young kids are particularly frightened by scary and violent images. Simply telling kids that those images aren't real won't console them, because they can't yet distinguish between fantasy and reality. Behaviour problems, nightmares and difficulty sleeping may be a consequence of exposure to media violence. Older kids can also be frightened by violent depictions, whether those images appear on fictional shows, the news, or reality-based shows.


Health experts have long linked excessive TV-watching to obesity — a significant health problem today. While watching TV, kids are inactive and tend to snack. They're also bombarded with ads that encourage them to eat unhealthy foods such as potato chips and empty-calorie soft drinks that often become preferred snack foods.


To kids, everything looks ideal — like something they simply have to have. It all sounds so appealing — often, so much better than it really is. Under the age of 8 years, most kids don't understand that commercials are for selling a product. Children 6 years and under are unable to distinguish program content from commercials, especially if their favourite character is promoting the product. Even older kids may need to be reminded of the purpose of advertising.

Nature! Nature! Nature!

Nature is the greatest teacher of patience, delayed gratification, reverence, awe and observation. The colours are spectacular and all the senses are stimulated. Many children today think being in nature is boring, because they are so used to the fast-paced, action-packed images from T.V. (Poplawaski 1998). We only truly learn when all our senses are involved, and when the information is presented to us in such a way that our highest brain can absorb it. Nature is reality while television is a pseudo-reality. (Susan Johnson , MD Assistant Clinical Professor of Paediatrics of Behavioural Paediatrics UCSF Stanford Health Care).

What can parents do?

  • Have kids watch ABC.

  • Record programs — without the commercials.

  • Buy or rent children's videos or DVDs.

  • Teach good TV Habits.

  • Limit the number of TV-watching hours

  • Encourage kids to do something other than watch the T.V. by stocking the room in which you have your TV with plenty of other non-screen entertainment (books, toys, puzzles, board games, etc.)

  • Keep TVs out of bedrooms.

  • Turn the TV off during meals.

  • Treat TV as a privilege to be earned — not a right.

  • Try a weekday ban.

  • Set a good example by limiting your own TV viewing.

  • Check the TV listings and program reviews ahead of time.

  • Preview programs before your kids watch them.

  • Come up with a family TV schedule that you all agree upon each week. Then, post the schedule in a visible area (e.g., on the refrigerator) so that everyone knows which programs are OK to watch and when.

  • Be sure to turn off the TV when the "scheduled" program is over instead of channel surfing.

  • Watch TV together. If you can't sit through the whole program, at least watch the first few minutes to assess the tone and appropriateness, then check in throughout the show. Talk to kids about what they see on TV and share your own beliefs and values.

Main Source: Kids Health from Nemours. This Article was written by Janet Carter. Janet Cater is an author, parenting advisor and workshop facilitator. She has qualifications in early childhood education and is a Brain Gym practitioner working one on one with children and their parents experiencing learning and behavioural challenges.


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