By the time they graduate from high school, many of today’s children will have spent more time in front of a TV than in a classroom. One study says that children aged 2 to 11 watch an average of 20 hours of television a week, while their teenage brothers and sisters spend 18 hours a week at the same activity. These numbers mean that TV viewing takes up a big chunk of time for many children. For parents and guardians, this raises concerns about how much TV time children should be allowed to watch, and how it can influence children’s behavior, values, development, and health.
Experts have studied all these questions, and the data they obtain does not just focus on instructional TV or carefully constructed children’s programs. Rather, it deals primarily with grown up prime time shows. The research shows that it is not a good idea for parents and baby sitters to get into the habit of using television as a child minder, since this will result in long periods of unsupervised viewing, and sometimes of material that is not suitable for youngsters.
It is generally recognized that a certain amount of viewing is normal and even good for children, as it can be entertaining, informative and socially relevant. A lot of viewing though offers decreasing returns. In this case, like in others areas, too much of something is not good for youngsters, experts say. Children’s time might be better spent doing things that teach them more about their world, environment, and encourage them to develop their talents, mind and physical abilities.
Children who watch violence programs many times, in which that violence portrays as an acceptable solution to the problems tend to work out their own problems in the same way. Aggressive skills are acquired earlier and more easily than mental and social skills. Children will admire aggressiveness in their heroes or heroines and may see little reason for devoting time and effort to learning other ways of solving problems.
Experts are careful to stress that the children who are the most affected are the heavy viewers of programming in which violence plays a major part. This leads them to suggest that, in addition to limiting the viewing time, parents should also monitor the types of shows children watch, and take time to view along with them. This way, they can explain or avoid troublesome materials.
Though it is not always easy to measure exactly how much time is actually spent watching the screen, heavy viewing is still the one factor associated with most of the negative effects of television. For this reason alone, parents should really be wise to put limits as how much TV they allow their children to watch every day.