Television mesmerizes and entertains children, sometimes for hours at a time. Although TV can be educational, it can also have harmful effects. If parents do not properly monitor television viewing, children can be exposed to violence and other negative programming that can influence their behavior. Parents are often unaware of how television viewing can affect the development of their child. It is helpful to limit television viewing and encourage other activities that promote a child's creativity and imagination.
One of the biggest concerns of many parents is the violence children are often exposed to by watching television. Violence is prevalent on TV, even in programs that are geared toward family viewing. Children can become numb to the horror of violence, imitate the violence they see and accept violence as a way to solve problems, notes the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry website. Children also begin to identify with television characters, both good and bad. According to child development experts with the Kids Health website, children who view violence on television are more likely to behave in an aggressive manner. Children also become fearful of the world and afraid that they will be the victim of violence.
Many television programs portray risky behavior such as smoking, drinking alcohol, sexual activity and other behavior that can influence children. Television characters that display such behavior are often popular and considered "cool." Children may view them as role models and want to imitate their actions. According to studies done by the RAND Corporation, teens who see sexual activity or hear sexual language on television are more likely to engage in sexual activity at a younger age, therefore leading to unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
Television can be educational and entertaining for children, but parents should monitor the TV programs their children watch. Children who are permitted to watch television completely unsupervised may suffer from poor school performance and negative behavior. Television may affect the way a child feels about himself, because race and gender are often stereotyped on television, according to the University of Michigan Health System's website. Television can also influence a child's attitude towards others. Additionally, TV is filled with commercials that bombard kids with advertisements for food and material items that they see and want. The University of Michigan Health System site also points out that children that the more children watch television, the less likely they are to engage in physical activity and the more apt they are to be overweight.
Parents should limit TV viewing time. Children under the age of 6 years watch approximately 2 hours of media, while kids aged 8 to 18 watch television about 4 hours per day. Too much television can distract children from school work, interactions with family and friends, and other activities. Experts with the American Academy of Pediatrics that children under age 2 do not watch television at all, since it is a critical time in a child's brain development. AAP advice also includes a recommendation that children over age 2 only watch one to two hours of television each day and that parents should select quality programs.