Television is a form of entertainment that has been around for a long time- it was first introduced in 1926.
So for almost one hundred years, families have been huddled around a box watching their favorite shows to unwind from a stressful day at work or to watch Sunday football. Special fold-out tables were made to put in living rooms so people could eat frozen TV dinners while they watched. Television has certainly taken over America’s lives for a long time, and with the rapid growth of technology and media recently, children have more options to watch TV or play on tablets and smartphones than ever before. So is there a real, scientific reason that television has been so lovingly nicknamed “The boob tube”? Or can children actually benefit from watching? In the early stages of childhood, kids’ minds are like sponges.
Inevitably, television will have psychological effects. Today, the average child aged five to sixteen will watch six and a half hours of TV a day, which is roughly forty six hours a week. This has risen dramatically over the past twenty years, where in 1995, the average child spent only three hours a day behind a screen, and younger children only two and a half hours. From an educational standpoint, television can be beneficial. Children who watch Sesame Street or other educational programs can teach valuable lessons on kindness, cooperation, counting, and the alphabet. Some programs can stimulate visits to various places such as the zoo, libraries, the grocery store, and other healthy environments, which can help with social development. It has been proven in studies that Sesame Street has improved the reading and learning skills of its viewers.
However, recent studies have shown that one to two hours of unsupervised television viewed by school children have negative effects on learning, most prominently reading. Violence has been a controversial topic on whether or not it impacts children. So, does it? The answer is of course. Violence on TV has been increasing. The average child sees twelve thousand violent acts each year on TV, such as murder and rape. And while there has been an ongoing argument of its effects, over one thousand studies have confirmed that it does in fact increase aggressive behavior, especially in boys.
Although, more specific groups of children are more vulnerable to its effects such as kids from minority groups, emotionally disturbed children, children with learning disabilities, children who are abused, and children of families in distress. In regards to nutrition, television takes away time for exercise and outdoor activities, so children who watch more television are less physically fit and more likely to eat junk food and other foods high in fat and calories. Commercials advertise junk food in fun stimulating ways, which promotes unhealthy eating habits.
Commercials for nutritious food only makes up four percent of the food commercials shown while children are watching TV. The amount of time children spend watching TV has also correlated to higher cholesterol levels. It has also been shown to contribute to eating disorders in teenage girls, whose role models are thin.
Finally, it has been shown that watching TV while eating dinner may lead to less meaningful communication and bad eating habits. Sex is now a norm on most television shows. In fact, there has been a 270% increase in sexual activity in the “family hour” of TV. This could have a positive impact on teens, because normalizing sex may make the act less taboo, and make kids feel more comfortable to talk about it, therefore making them more educated in the subject. However, the media often portrays the act as being risk-free and careless, with people sleeping with multiple partners. Sex scenes with unmarried partners are shown twenty-four time more than sex with married partners. STDs and unwanted pregnancy are not often mentioned, which takes away the potential educational value sex on television could have on children and teens.
Finally, alcohol use and smoking or other use of tobacco products are all part of the television world. Major breweries in America spend roughly 437 million on commercials. Annually, teenagers see one to two thousand beer commercials that give the message that “real men drink beer”. A correlation was made that alcohol commercials increase consumption. In Sweden, a ban was put on alcohol commercials, and alcohol consumption decreased.
Although tobacco advertising is illegal on TV in America, it is still used in TV shows and movies to make characters seem macho or rebellious. The major problem with alcohol and smoking on TV is that it often does not accurately show the consequences of using these substances, and just makes it look like normal behavior. In conclusion, television may have its positive impacts on developing minds, but only if it is used in moderation. Excessive use of TV in children, especially younger ones, can critically impact the child’s developmental stage, as well as physical health. The most important thing to do for a child and television is to limit the amount of time they spend watching, and be mindful of what they watch. If they watch any of the above mentioned content, parents should talk to their kids about why the behavior is wrong and what would possibly happen to them if they got drunk at a party, or have sex with multiple partners. Television will always be around to watch as long as it is available in a home, which means that children will always be watching and seeing dramatized depictions of deviant behavior.
It is up to the parents to moderate and educate their children on things they see on TV. Reflection While doing my research, I wasn’t very surprised by my findings. I know that TV is bad if you constantly watch it.
I was really only surprised that Sesame Street actually improves kids’ reading and learning abilities. I don’t necessarily agree with some of the points made that my sources suggest. For the violence aspect, there is obviously a correlation with violence in TV and aggression in kids, there hasn’t been a known cause.
The statistic doesn’t apply to everyone, so it’s hard to know for a fact that this is a real problem. On the learning level, I know from experience that TV can either be helpful or harmful depending on what they watch. Living with my grandparents, they don’t have as much energy as they used to, so they usually use TV to deal with my five year old sister during the day. She usually watches educational shows that help her count and learn how to sound words out, she probably knows the Paw Patrol theme song better than she knows how to read or write. And as for violence, she no longer wants to sleep in her bed because she’s afraid that Chucky is going to get her, (She used to say the same thing about Swiper from Dora, so even educational shows aren’t safe) so while violence may not always make kids aggressive, it sure can traumatize them. The sexual topics on TV are pretty much the way my sources said, but I have seen personally lots of shows that touch topics such as pregnancy and abortion. But a lot of hooking up is involved. I can say personally that seeing sex scenes on TV didn’t make me want to go out and hook up with random people, I can see how it could make young teenagers feel like that’s a cool, mature thing to do.
Overall, my findings weren’t super surprising, but seeing the numbers and psychological effects of excessive TV use was a little eye opening.