Does TV Really Affect Teens?

If your teen spends what seems like hours in front of the TV each day, you might be worried about what he's watching and the effect all that screen time is having. While TV seems like a relatively innocent and safe activity, it can have an enormous negative effect on the health and well-being of your teen. Once you fully understand what TV can do in the life of your teen, you can find ways to limit his screen time and encourage him to watch appropriate programs.


According to KidsHealth, the average teen spends about four hours a day watching TV. That's a large chunk of time that he isn't dedicating to studying and being active. When teens watch that much TV, they often have poorer grades because all that distraction gets in the way of learning. In fact, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation reports that teens who watch a lot of TV tend to have lower test scores and smaller vocabularies than teens who watch less TV 2. The foundation further notes that adults with advanced degrees reported watching less TV when they were teens than those without advanced degrees.

Overall Health

Spending too much time in front of the TV has a host of negative effects on your teen's health. When she's parked in front of the screen, she's not exercising, which can lead to weight gain and obesity. According to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, many teens also snack while watching TV, which could translate to hundreds of calories 2. Over time, all those calories contribute to weight gain. Too much TV can also get in the way of your teen's sleep. If she's staying up to watch her favorite show, she might not get enough hours of sleep to feel her best the next day. Chronic sleep deprivation can have a negative effect on her grades, relationships and physical health.

Violent and Risky Behaviors

Teen programming is filled with violence and images of risky behavior. According to KidsHealth, the average child will see more than 200,000 acts of violence before his 18th birthday 1. All this violence can desensitize your teen, which can lead to aggression and an attitude that violence is acceptable. This is particularly true because many of the bad guys in teen programming are never fully punished for violence at the same time that the good guys are glorified to for using violence to achieve a certain end. The same goes for risky behavior, such as smoking, drinking, drug use and sexual activity. Teens see actors and actresses doing it on TV, but the programs rarely show what can happen in the long run, such as:

  • lung cancer
  • drunken-driving accidents
  • drug overdoses
  • teen pregnancy


Limit your teen's screen time to cut down on the risk associated with too much TV. Don't let her watch TV while she's eating, doing homework and when you have company. Allow her a certain amount of TV time per day. For example, allow her to choose two or three of her favorite shows to watch each week and leave the TV off when she's done watching. Preview her favorite programs ahead of time, too, to ensure you approve of her watching them. Keep the TV out of your teen's bedroom and consider watching with her so you can talk about what she's seeing. Give your teen entertaining alternatives to TV. Allow her to join a sports team or challenge her to a board game. Encourage reading and hobbies, as well.