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When is Too Much TV

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Psychological research has clearly shown that too much television and other media devices are not good for children.  I do believe this holds true for adults as well.  Children and Adolescents today are spending far more time on media devices that at any other time in history.  One reason is there is far more types of media devices for people to be on.  Television, computers, Ipods, Ipads, and smart phones just to name a few. 


According to the Kaiser Foundation in 2010, children and teens spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes on media devices.  That is more than 53 hours per week.  More than they are in school, more than they are sleeping, and more than the typical workweek.  The children and teens are also using more than 10 hours of media time if you factor in they are multitasking and using more than one media device at a time.  This increase in media exposure time has increase more than an hour from a similar study done in 2004.  I would assume that the time has again increased since the study in 2010. 


The Kaiser Foundation reported only about 3 in 10 youngsters reported having any rules from parents in place for time spent on media devices.  When parents actually do set and enforce the rules, the average time is 2 hours and 52 minutes.  That is less than half of the time spent. 



There have been no conclusive studies showing cause and effect relationships between media exposure and negative consequences. There are some alarming correlation effects.  47% of the young people using the media devices at the average range of 7 hours are getting school grades of C’s and lower.  The U.S. Department of Education reported, as far back as 1994, that television watching and media exposure causes a sharp decline in school performance.  This article,Strong Families, Strong Schools, encourages parents to set limits on the amount of television children are watching. 

too much tv


The same report stated that three factors, student absenteeism, a variety of reading materials in the home, and excessive television watching, accounted for 90% of the differences of averages in the performances of 8th graders mathematics scores.  6th and 12th graders in California, who were heavy watchers and consumers of media resources, did worse on test measuring reading scores, written expression, and math achievement (The three R’s), than those students who had limits on media exposure. 



Children who watch television or interact with other electronic sources tend to be overweight.  It is not just the lack of exercise but usually when children are interacting with these sources they are also snacking.  Usually the snacking is on unhealthy foods. 


The programs on television and other media sources also depict behaviors that are not conducive to good health.  Characters are smoking, drinking, having unprotected sex, and other behaviors that are not good health habits. 


too much tv

The commercials are selling toward children.  Younger children do not understand those commercials are for selling products.  They may see their favorite cartoon character promoting a product and think this is something they should have.  Of course, the parent is suppose to be able to distinguish what is needed for the child and not, but as you probably already know this is not that case all the time.


When the children are plopped down in front of a screening they are not out exercising.  They are not playing sports.  They are not testing their physical limits to see what they can and cannot excel in. 



The child that is spending too much time in front of what I call EIR’s (electronic intelligent reducers) are also not gaining one valuable attribute that has been shown to predict success as an adult, communication.  The child sitting in front of a screen, pushing buttons, and watching videos are not communicating and learning the valuable technique of personal communication.  True, they may be communicating via messaging, emails, etc, but they are not able to read people and look for the non verbal cues that give us an advantage when negotiating with others for jobs, careers, education, or pay raises. 


too much tv

Every major psychological theory of development tells us that social interactions are key determinate for appropriate adjustment.  Poor social interactions will create poor adjustment.  Good social interactions with appropriate peers and authority figures will tend to lead us to good adjustment and success in interpersonal relationships. 



According to studies by the University of Washington and The American Academy of Pediatrics as well as The ADHD Help Center, too much television and electronic devices can lead a child to become a bully. 

A study of more than 700 families found that 14-year-old boys who watched relatively more television were more likely to have assaulted someone or committed a serious act of aggression by the time they were 22 years old.

Another study showed that preschoolers who watch television violence and play violent video games are more likely to show high levels of aggression and antisocial behavior than those not exposed to violent television and video games.

The number of sexual incidents that occur during the "family hour" prime-time hour (between 8-9 p.m.) increased more than 400 percent since 1976.

sex on tv

Dr. John Robinson from the University of Maryland did research that showed the one activity that most unhappy people do is watch television.  Happy people watched less television that those that were unhappy.  The research did not say whether the television watching was a cause or an effect of unhappiness, but it was correlated.  That means there is a relationship with it.  Is the television and electronic devices causing unhappiness?  I cannot say.  I do know from my own experience, when I was unhappy I was watching a lot more television and was addicted to the Farmville game on Facebook.  Watch for television watching and mood symptoms with your children (and yourself) to determine if these patterns exist. 

What’s a Parent to Do?

Parents should reduce the amount of time the children watch or have access to media devices, other than homework, to no more than 2 hours, total time, each day during the week.  On days when there is no school, media devices should be limited to no more than 4 hours per day.  According to Dr. Thomas Robinson, Stanford University School of Medicine, reducing this time will reduce aggressive and combative behaviors with parents, siblings, and others. 


Parents should provide and recommend alternative activities for the children.  For young children, it can be playing with toys, looking at picture books, reading if able, interacting with siblings, and going outside for outdoor activities if the child is old enough.  For older children and adolescents, there are many activities to choose from.  A few are listening to music, nature hikes, reading, sports, arrow head hunting, going to the park, outdoor sports, and etc. 


Parents should avoid putting televisions in the child’s room.  The parents should be monitoring what the child is watching and this is a lot easily in a common’s area.  I actually recommend televisions not be in any other room of the house.  This should be a place where families can come together and enjoy a family oriented show and have a discussion about it later.  Other media devices may need to be used in other areas of the house as not to interfere with other family member’s activities, but this does not mean the parents should not be monitoring the usage.


Parents should turn the television off when the programming you are watching has finished.  Most people watch television instead of watching a program.  Do not leave the television on when someone is not watching it.  It saves electricity as well.


When families are having activities that are not using media devices, those devices should be turned off.  For instance, at dinner, the television or other media devices should be turned off and not brought into the dining area. 


parents and tv

Parents should not purchase or permit anyone in the house to purchase violent video games.  Let your children know you disapprove of these types of games.  Explain to them why you disapprove.  Finding violence entertaining can have damaging consequences in the emotional development of the child.  It desensitizes people to the real pain and real violence in the world. 


Know your child.  Watch for patterns that are no prosocial and are going to benefit your child in the future.  Ask yourself, is this activity too much and hindering the progress of my child to become a better, more productive adult in the future.  I have no doubt you want better for your children and limiting the amount of time on electronic devices is one thing you can do to help them become a better person.  Help your child start the progress to a Level 10 Life.  

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