Television has its good side. It can entertain and educate, opening new worlds for your child as they learn about different cultures and ideas. Positive role models can influence young viewers to make good lifestyle choices. However, there are many negative aspects to television viewing, effecting your children’s health, well-being, and behaviour in undesirable ways. Many parents have concerns around children watching TV in terms of development.

Social interaction is critical to a young child’s healthy development. Time spent watching TV replaces time spent interacting with caregivers and other children.  Spending time watching TV can take time away from playing outside with friends, eating dinner together as a family, or reading. TV time also takes away from participating in sports, music, art or other activities that require practice for one to become skilful.

The Negative Impacts of Children Watching TV

Children who spend time watching TV (even with parents and siblings present) spend less time interacting with family members. In addition to this, excessive TV viewing can lead to poor academic performance, obesity, behaviour problems and risky behaviour, and problems sleeping.

This is largely due to the fact that children frequently watch TV instead of doing homework or reading, which leads to poor academic performance. University of Michigan researchers found that just being awake and in the room with the TV on for more than 2 hours a day was a risk factor for being overweight at ages 3-4 ½.

It is also a concern for many parents that children see their favourite characters in violent or inappropriate situations.

Finally, TV can affect other aspects of a child’s life; even their physical health. Television viewing is associated with altered sleep patterns and sleep disorders among children and adolescents. TV influences food and drink choices and TV viewing may promote alcohol use as children see thousands of TV adverts each year.

Reducing the Negative Impact of Children Watching TV

There are benefits to watching quality television programming such as for education purposes, relaxation and fun. To make sure your children are learning and receiving positive age appropriate messages, take the following steps:

  • Watch with your children and discuss what happens to help your children filter undesirable messages.
  • Decide in advance which programs are age-appropriate.
  • Make some easy-to-follow rules and stick to them.
  • Make television time family time with shows you all enjoy.

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