For three decades now, the issue of television viewing and its effects on our children's bodies and minds has been hotly debated. It's been studied by sociologists, researched by scientists, debated by educationists, and we now have a pretty clear idea of the effects of television.
Yes, it is.
Children in America watch an average of three hours of television programs a day. Apart from this, they also use the television for other things like movies on video discs, and games. It is estimated that children spend about the same number of hours before the television as at school. So much time spent with television promotes sloth, obesity, poor school performance, and poor activity and fitness. It also reduces social interaction, both within the family and with friends.
Television viewing, especially in the evening is a cause of sleep disturbance, like bedtime resistance, anxiety, sleep onset delay, and reduced sleep duration. A television set in the child's bedroom is obviously wrong, since it adds heavily to television watching.
Frequent exposure to violence in television programs has been repeatedly found to be linked to real life aggressive behavior among children. Most programs that children watch, including cartoons, contain violence. Music videos, so popular among older children and adolescents, often show weapon carrying, alcoholic drinks, smoking, and drug abuse.
There is good content on television, of course. There are channels entirely devoted to the natural world, and many channels carry child friendly programs promoting information, education, and general knowledge. Some programs teach children about the world around us, friendship, cooperation, and even school subjects. These programs are a valuable resource, and children should be encouraged to watch them. However, even these channels sometimes depend for their survival on advertisements for unhealthy food, cigarettes, and alcoholic drinks.
Laying down the law about television can lead to confrontation in the family. Children don't take well to arbitrary commands. A calm explanation about why certain programs are off limits will have better results, and help children to learn family values.
Best of all, of course, is to give our children alternatives so that television gets neglected. Enrol them for games and classes, and take them to the library, museums, parks, games, social activities and other places where much can be learnt. This requires a significant outlay of time and effort from parents, of course.
Last Revision: February 14, 2016
It's obvious that television viewing promotes sloth and overeating, which lead to obesity. What is not so well known is that it also causes eating disorders, especially in adolescent and teenage girls. Watching slim models and actresses on various shows has a deep impact on young girls' psyche.
In Fiji, television was introduced in 1995, and the only channel showed programs of American, British, and Australian origin. Girls who watched television were 50% more likely than others to see themselves as fat. Symptoms of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia have increased five fold since then.
Dr. Parang Mehta,
Opposite Putli, Sagrampura,
Surat, India. Tel: +91 9429486624.
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