Television is a positive tool for education and development. It can educate children about other cultures and ways of life. However, excessive television viewing may be harmful to youth development. According to the University of Michigan Health System, 71 percent of 8 to 18 year olds have a TV in their bedroom. Fifty-four percent of youth have a DVD player, and 20 percent have access to premium cable channels.
Leonard Eron, senior research scientist at the University of Michigan, said television is responsible for 10 percent of youth violence. Youth who watch extensive amounts of violence on television are more likely to display aggressive behavior. Violent scenes on television are often unrealistic and provide little to no consequences; children are likely to become desensitized to violence because they see no punishment for actions. Youth may also imitate violent acts they see on television. The University of Michigan Health System notes that an average American child will see 200,000 violent acts and 16,000 murders on TV by age 18. Though television violence is not the only reason youth act out in violent behavior, it's a significant contributor.
Television has an impact on health and development of youth. Time spent viewing television programs takes away from physical activity. A contributor to childhood obesity is the sedentary lifestyle of those who watch excessive amounts of TV. Children who don't engage in sports, playing outdoors and exploring nature are more likely to take these habits into their adulthood. Media Awareness Network states that television ads encourage youth to buy fast food or junk food. Marketing on television is often geared toward youth. Commercials that market healthy food products only account for four percent of all advertisements.
Television influences brain development of children from infancy to youth. The University of Michigan Health System says TV viewing before age three affects children's cognitive development. Likewise, TV may discourage youth from reading; they're more willing to be entertained by a television program. Reading requires more thinking for brain development. Educational reading also helps build knowledge on different subject matters. Youth who watch excessive TV are more likely to have trouble reading.
The sexual content in television programming and commercials has a great impact on youth. Television can be a tool for educating youth about sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy. However, it can also stimulate interest in sexual activity at an early age. The Media Awareness Network states that three out of four prime time shows contain sexual references. In shows that portray teen sex situations, only 17 percent included a message about responsible sex. Parents-tv.org states that 62 percent of youth say that sex on TV influences them to have sex when they're too young.