Over time, television has become a must have household item/electronic for most American households. Today, unlike several decades ago, a television viewer has a wide range of channels to choose from. However, the ever increasing relevance of the television set has not come without criticism. In most cases, the criticism that has been leveled against television viewing has largely been founded on the impact it has on its viewers -- most particularly children. Television viewing can be informative and even entertaining. However, the negative impact the same has on young viewers cannot be overstated.
Television and Children: An Overview
In basic terms, the role television plays in our lives today is simply huge. To begin with, it is the most convenient source of news from around the world. However, in addition to keeping us informed, the television also keeps us entertained via a wide range of programs including but not limited to movies, reality shows, talk shows, etc. With a wide range of channels to choose from, both children and adults have over time established strong bonds with their television sets. Many children are spending too much of their time watching television. Indeed, in the opinion of Newman and Newman (2008), the effect television has on the behavior as well as attitude of a child has been an issue of great concern. Most experts are in agreement that excessive television viewing has a negative impact on not only the mind but also the body of children.
The Negative Impact of Television on Children
Field experiments, laboratory experiments and other studies conducted over the last three decades according to Newman and Newman (2008) have clearly demonstrated "that televised violence has definite negative consequences for young children's behaviors and beliefs." As Silver (as cited in Newman and Newman, 2008) further points out, it has been estimated that from age 3 to age 12, a child views approximately ten thousand violent acts and eight thousand murders for every 27 hours spent before a television set every week. In addition to being surprising, these statistics are worrying. It therefore follows that by age 12, a child exposed to such a high number of murders as well as violence would likely be numb to the same. Such acts could even stop being depressing or surprising to the child at such a young age. This does not come without consequences. For instance, a child exposed to such levels of violence may in addition to imitating the depicted violence also view violence as a problem solving tool. Indeed, as Hoffman (2008) points out, the media has consistently portrayed firearms as an acceptable problem resolution tool. In most cases, it is not unusual for children to identify with characters they regard their heroes or spend most time with. When a child spends most of his or her time watching television, he or she is likely to identify with some TV characters depicted in movies or TV programs. The risk in this case comes about when a child tries to align his or her character with that of a certain TV or movie character. Imitating a violent character could put both the safety of the concerned child and those of his or her playmates at risk.
Secondly, it is also important to note that too much time spent by children watching television could have a negative impact on not only their health but also academic performance. In the opinion of Hoffman (2008), many hours of watching television could displace other meaningful activities including but not limited to reading and exercise. Without supervision, children are more likely than not to substitute their study time with TV viewing. This could drastically affect their academic performance. Indeed, it would not be unusual for a child to rush through his homework just to catch his favorite TV show. It is also important to note that excessive TV viewing amongst young children has been associated with increased rates obesity. Today, it is not unlikely to find children glued to the TV screens for long hours. In some instances, they stay up until very late either watching movies or other programs of their choice. This interferes with their sleeping hours as well as their exercise time. Watching television is a sedentary activity, that is, it does not involve a lot of movement and/or/exercise. As Koplan, Liverman and Kraak (2005) point out, TV watching is one of the most studied sedentary behaviors linked to obesity. In the words of the authors, "many epidemiological studies have found positive associations between increased prevalence of obesity or overweight and greater lengths of television viewing time…" (Koplan, Liverman and Kraak, 2005). It therefore follows that as children watch more TV, their health is impacted the most. This is more so the case given that obesity is linked to a wide range of other health complications.
Next, too much TV viewing could also affect a child's ability to interact effectively with other people going forward. The more time a child spends watching television, the less time such a child has to interact with other children and/or family members. Interactions help in the development of a child's language and communication skills. A lot of time spent watching television could also in this case increase the emotional distance between children and their parents. This disconnect could in the long run prove costly as the parent could fail to notice vital clues of behavior change especially when the child's behavior starts to be defined by what he or she sees on TV. A child needs to interact with others for a healthy emotional as well as social development.
It is also important to note that the various advertisements running on TV have a significant influence on those children who view them. Today, the media is packed with advertisements for a wide range of items including but not limited to unhealthy foods, alcoholic beverages and cigarettes. Surprisingly, most of the unhealthy snack food advertisements and promotions running on TV target children. This is more so the case when popular cartoon characters are used to advertise junk food. Such advertisements drive up the consumption of unhealthy foods amongst youngsters thus further complicating the war against obesity especially amongst the young population. Further, according to Hoffman (1996), alcohol advertising often takes place in the context of other high risk behaviors including car racing. This in the opinion of the author implies that driving and drinking can go hand in hand. This in every respect sends the wrong message to children. It can also be noted that when advertised on TV, some behaviors such as smoking and drinking alcohol appear socially acceptable and even admirable.
Next, there are those who believe that television viewing i.e. In regard to TV news reports as well as programming has had a hand in increased rates of teenage suicides (Hoffman, 1996). In the words of the author, "imitative suicides are consistent with learning theory that postulates behavior as learned through modeling." Through programs, news items as well as movies, the media could successfully portray suicide as a socially accepted norm. For a child who is unable to differentiate that which is real from that which is not, suicide could come across as being an ideal way to end depression and/or other challenges in life.
Positive Effects of Watching Television
In the opinion of Hoffman (1996), the influence the media i.e. television has on children need not be negative. Parents who stick to the guidelines the author recommends (as highlighted in the section below) need not worry about the negative impact of television on their children. According to Shaffer (2008), children who watch acts of kindness on television are more likely to put the prosocial lessons they learn into practice. In the author's opinion, programs like Mister Rogers' Neighborhood are especially helpful on this front especially when children are asked to role-play the show's prosocial lessons.
It is also important to note that children are more likely to benefit from educational programs more than they are likely to benefit from other general programs. Shaffer (2008) points out that some educational programs have been especially beneficial to children especially in regard to enhancing their readiness for learning or school. Such programs according to the author also foster basic cognitive skills.
According Hoffman (1996), a number of strategies can be embraced in an attempt to avert the negative effects of television viewing most particularly amongst children. To begin with, the author recommends that television viewing time be limited to a maximum of two hours a day. In my opinion, this approach of limiting the negative effects of TV viewing to children would ensure that a child has enough time left for other activities including but not limited to play, study and exercise.
Secondly, Hoffman (1996) points out that the programs children watch should be closely monitored. When a program seems to go beyond the set boundaries in regard to violence, the parent should not hesitate to change channels. This approach in…