How Much Is Too Much?

This debate has been on going for the last 20 years and divides parents in the same way that organic food divides shoppers. Many think it is a great way to keep kids quiet so household chores can get done, and some parents think TV can actually be beneficial and educational. Despite studies that show television can have a detrimental effect on young children, the average six year old in the U.K. still watches about two hours a day. Here are the top three reasons why television can be bad for children.

Kids watching TV

Children stop doing other more physical activities

If children become attached to watching the television or get into the habit of sitting down in front of it after school and not moving before bedtime, this can interfere with other activities. Research has shown that television has replaced many outdoor activities, even in the summer, and a recent Essex University study found that children's strength had declined severely in the last 10 years possibly due to the reduction in physical activity. With rising obesity in children there are fears the situation will only get worse as the health concern has long been linked to too much television. Gone are the days when children would play in the garden or in the park and now kids huddle around television screens taking little or no exercise. A study carried out at the University of Sydney has found that children who spent a significant amount of time in front of the television were suffering from narrowing of the blood vessels in their eyes. This on its own is a huge worry but can also be an indication of heart disease and high blood pressure in later life.

Children are exposed to violent and angry behaviour

There is a huge amount of violence and bad behaviour on our television screens these days, and although we have a 9 p.m. watershed, many programmes still include bad behaviour before then. There has been a lot of significant research done into how this type of television can affect the behaviour of children, and it has been found that many children do try and copy what they see on the box. Renowned doctor Lord Robert Winston has stated on several occasions that he believes television has a negative effect on even very small children and their behaviour.

Children see adverts for unsuitable products

Adverts are all over our lives -- from billboards, to the radio, magazines and newspapers. However, there is no doubt that television adverts are the ones we see the most day to day. Advertisers take advantage of the teatime slot when most children sit down to watch the television and bombard them with adverts for toys, computer games and gadgets. While these are bad enough and leave our children wanting expensive items, which many families simply can't afford, the most harmful adverts are the ones for unhealthy foods and drinks. Adverts for sweets, fizzy drinks and fast food are constantly running between kids television shows and can trigger unhealthy eating habits among those children exposed. The more television watched, the more times children are going to see the adverts. One report states that the average American child watches more than 30,000 ads a year and British kids can't be far behind.

What can parents do about television?

  • The best thing parents can do to prevent the problems associated with their children watching television is to limit access to it and keep a careful eye over what your child is watching.
  • Allow TV for only an hour a day at the most and make sure you are present when they are watching it. This way you can keep track of the content not only of the programmes but also the adverts.
  • Never let your children eat their dinner in front of the telly, and if possible always eat food at the table as a family.
  • If you can, keep all televisions in family areas and don't allow a set in a child's bedroom.
  • If your child is starting to show an interest in the television try and encourage them to do something else instead, such as drawing, painting or playing a board game.

More on children and television

Is TV really bad for children?
Kids and TV: Break the addiction
Less television and more gathering around the dinner table prevents kids from becoming overweight

Tags: child behaviour child development child health television influence

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