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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 ask the question, “Is television really necessary for my children?”

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 skillful.

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The negative impacts of watching too much TV

  • Children who spend time watching TV (even with parents and siblings present) spend less time interacting with family members.
  • Excessive TV viewing can lead to poor academic performance, obesity, behaviour problems and risky behaviour, and problems sleeping.
    • 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.
    • Your child also sees favourite characters involved in sexual situations and other risky behaviours.
    • 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.

Your child sees tens of thousands of TV commercials each year, many for unhealthy snack foods and drinks.

  • TV can discourage and replace reading.

Reading requires much more thinking than television, and therefore fosters your child’s healthy brain development. Children from families that have the TV on a great deal of the time spend less time reading and being read to. They are also less likely to be able to read.

  • Viewing TV violence reduces inhibitions and can lead to aggressive behaviour.

TV glamorizes violence. Violence goes unpunished, is funny, and has little if any consequences.

How to reduce the negative impact of certain TV shows

There are benefits to watching quality television programming. 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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