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A Powerful Presence in Your Home
There may be an unwanted guest in your home. This someone, or something, is influencing you and others living with you, especially children. Most Americans, 99% to be exact, have willingly invited this guest into their living rooms. Some have even welcomed it into their bedrooms! Have you guessed what this invited—but often times undesirable—guest is? It’s your television.
At least one TV can be found in nearly every home in the U.S. Most homes have two or three TV sets. According to recent research, 71% of children ages eight to eighteen have a TV in their bedroom, 40% of four to six-year-olds have a TV in their bedroom, and 30% of children ages birth to three have a TV in their bedroom. This last statistic is especially alarming because the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends no TV viewing for children under eighteen months of age. These statistics don’t take into account children’s media access on smartphones and tablets.
TV has a profound effect on the children and youth of our country. It is a powerful teacher of many things. When used in moderation, some good things can be learned from watching TV. Preschool children can get help learning numbers and letters. Grade-school children and teens can learn about nature, wildlife, and history. Adults can stay current with the events of the day by watching the nightly news.
Too much TV, however, can have very negative effects. Research shows that TV contributes to sleep problems, health problems, behavior problems, and struggles in reading and academics. TV viewing, especially when done at night, reduces the quality and quantity of a child’s sleep. Children ages three and under who watch TV are at a higher risk of having both irregular nap and bedtime schedules.
The number of overweight and obese children is growing at an alarming rate. The sedentary nature of TV (and other screen) viewing is partly to blame. We now know that children who consistently spend more than four hours a day watching TV are more likely to be overweight.
A recent study by the National Institute on Media and the Family links children’s viewing of violent programming with aggressive, violent behavior towards other children. Research compiled by the Public Broadcasting Service shows that by the age of eighteen, the average U.S. child’s TV viewing has included 16,000 murders, not to mention the over 200,000 other acts of violence they view.
Too much TV harms the reading and academic skills of children and youth. Researchers have found that our youngest learners, ages five and under, who watch small amounts of TV score better on reading and math tests than those that watch a lot of TV. This also holds true as children age.
Research tells us that children who watch a lot of TV are much less likely to earn a college degree by their mid-twenties. In fact, the more children watch TV, the more likely they are to leave school before earning a degree.