Excessive and unsupervised television viewing can have negative effects on kids. While the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, recommends that children older than 2 only watch one to two hours of quality programming a day, the average 8- to-18-year-old kid watches four hours of TV a day. To combat the negative effects of television, the AAP recommends fast forwarding commercials, setting the parental controls on your television and talking with your children about what they see on TV.
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The average American child sees 200,000 acts of violence on TV before the age of 18, and these acts may cause kids to become more aggressive or desensitized to violence, warns KidsHealth.org. Television often fails to show the consequences of violent behaviors or the violence is seen as justified when perpetrated by the good guy. Both fictional violence from dramas and real life violence from the nightly news can scare children, leading to nightmares and a fear of the world.
Nutrition and Obesity
Television often promotes unhealthy eating habits and excessive television viewing has been linked to obesity. Children view an average of 15 food commercials every day and 98 percent of these commercials are for food of low nutritional value, cites a National Institutes of Health-funded study from 2009 in the "Journal of Health Communications." The commercials indicate that eating these foods makes you happy and cool. Additionally, kids see unhealthy eating habits portrayed in their favorite TV shows. The hours spent in front of the television are generally hours of inactivity and snacking.
Cigarettes, Alcohol and Drugs
Children see smoking, drinking and doing drugs glorified on television. Although cigarette ads are banned on television, kids still see smoking in TV shows and the number of alcohol commercials has increased by 30 percent from 2001 to 2006, according to a Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth study. Kids who watch five or more hours of television a day are significantly more likely to start smoking than kids who watch less than two hours, cites KidsHealth.org. Additionally, a longitudinal study cited by the AAP found a positive correlation between television and music video viewing and alcohol consumption among teens.
Television is one of the leading sources of information about sex for kids, says Dr. Hernan Delgado, the lead author of a Children’s Hospital Boston study on television viewing and sexuality. The longitudinal study, presented to the Pediatric Academic Societies in 2009, found that the younger children are exposed to content intended for adults in television and movies, the earlier they become sexually active during adolescence. TV shows often make risky sexual behaviors seem cool and exciting, failing to address their real-life consequences.
- KidsHealth.org: How TV Affects Your Child
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Policy Statement: Children, Adolescents, and Television
- "Journal of Health Communication"; The Relationship Between Television Viewing and Unhealthy Eating: Implications for Children and Media Interventions; Jennifer L. Harris and John A. Bargh; Oct. 2009
- EurekAlert!: Children Who View Adult-Targeted TV May Become Sexually Active Earlier in Life