If your child is watching TV, and if you are wondering how much is too much, then you are not alone. It is estimated that children under the age of 6 watches on an average 2 hours of TV daily. In fact, this statistics apply even to 60% of infants and toddlers! And for children older than 6, it is estimated that on an average they watch 4 hours of TV (in addition to 2 hours of laptop) daily. That is a lot of screen time! There are many benefits for watching quality TV programs. At the same time, too much of it can be counter-productive.
So here is a list of pros and cons of watching TV on children.
Benefits of Watching TV For Children
- Knowledge: There are many educational programs that run on TV. There are the ones that improve your child’s vocabulary, there are the ones that are focused on wild life and nature, there are the ones that are focused on good habits like healthy eating, and the ones that are focused on showing academic subjects like science and history in an exciting and kids-friendly way. Many of these shows are scientifically designed to expand the knowledge of your child
- Visual information: One might argue that everything mentioned in the educational programs in TV can be taught at home too. It definitely can. In fact, hands-on learning is any day much better. But many topics, like about different countries and cultures, scientific experiments, or historical stories can be taught much easily through a visual media as the child will relate to it better
- Imagination: Many cartoons and kids shows are known to spike children’s imagination and creativity. Sky is blue? No! it can be red, orange, violet or black depending on time of the day. Cars can fly. Sun and moon can get into a fight. The possibilities of imagination are numerous and TV will help children flesh this out
- Activity-based shows: One of the biggest cons of TV watching is the idle time and lack of physical activity involved. There are at least a few shows that, much like the cookery shows, encourage the little minds to do things. It might be making a poster or a collage, or encouraging them to plant a tree, or make them aware of waste management
Drawbacks Of Watching Too Much TV On Children
- Violence: One of the biggest problems of TV is that children cannot yet separate right from wrong and this can be dangerous. A lot of violence is shown in TV. Even in many programs designed especially for kids, violence is shown as a fun way to get what you want. Whether it is cartoon or movies, the protagonist (whom the child admires) is seen doing violent stunts. This can make a child believe that violence is an ok way to get things. It can make him more aggressive. It can also make the child less sensitive to violence. “Few punches and kicks are okay. I see it in TV all the time”. It might also impact the child’s language. More on this subject here
- Unreal expectations: While the TV has the power to make your child imaginative, it can also give him unrealistic expectations about the world. For starters, the world and society are not depicted in true sense on TV. The characters in TV are shown to be invincible (the hero can dodge any number of bullets and can stand despite any number of punches). All these will impact the child’s realism. He might start expecting the world and people to be more like it is in TV. In short, children are too small to separate fact from fiction
- Concentration: Research indicates that too much of TV can hamper the concentration of your child. Have you noticed how many times you need to call your child before he hears you when he watches TV? Even after he finishes viewing TV, the visual media stays in his mind for much longer, impairing his concentration powers to do other things
- Risky actions: The caveat that goes with people trying risky stunts and undesirable behavior on TV is lost on the child. So when they see the hero they love smoking, drinking alcohol or doing drugs, it is easy to get influenced by it. Movies many at times make these risky actions look “cool” and “in”
- Obesity: Research has linked TV time to obesity. It is quite logical if you think about it. More TV equates to more idle time and more snacking. And they do not snack on vegetables and fruits. It is mostly fried items and aerated drinks
So, we can conclude that TV is okay, as long as you monitor the programs watched and the child is exposed to TV only in moderation. That said, it is best not to expose children below 2 years to any kind of screens (TV, mobile, tablets). This period is of utmost significance in terms of brain development and hence, the child needs to engage in various activities like exploration, interaction with others, playing etc. These will aid in much better physical and social development of your child as opposed to spending too much idle time in front of screen, however knowledgeable the program is. Once they grow bigger, they can watch TV for 1-2 hours a day, but ensure they are watching only quality programs.