How Too Much Television Can Affect Children’s Behavior
For many busy households, the prospect of the television becoming a surrogate nanny – sometimes even a substitute to parents – is just too tempting.
The advantages are obvious. The children stay still and quiet and the adults are able to do what they need or want to do. We can also say that they may actually be learning something new if they are watching an educational show.
Before this article sounds like a tribute to the great idiot box, we must say that this piece of technology is in no way comparable to the most inane interaction with another human being. To understand the benefits of watching television, we need to see what a child needs to learn at a specific age.
Here is a quick run-through.
0 to 6 years old: development of psychomotor skills, may start talking, forming basic concepts, learning languages to describe social and physical reality, learns sex differences and sexual modesty, and gets ready to read
6 to 12 years old: gets along with peers, builds wholesome self attitudes, learns the appropriate masculine or feminine social role, develops a conscience, learns morality and a scale of values, achieves personal independence, and develops attitudes toward social groups and institutions
Looking at the list of developmental tasks, we are able to contextualize the boon and bane of watching television shows. Watching TV is a form of entertainment; this is its primary purpose.
However, it is potentially harmful if it occupies a significant amount of the day. Watching TV as a habit can actually promote psychomotor retardation and passivity. Kids come to expect to be entertained and may fail to develop initiative for action. There is also very little opportunity to practice and develop motor and social skills in this passive entertainment.
Not surprisingly, research shows the poor development of reading skills relative to the number of hours spent watching TV. Other researchers have also established a connection between aggression in children and the amount of TV viewing.
It is important for children to have routines and habits. They need to learn that there is a time and a place for everything, including TV time. Limiting this form of entertainment to the least amount of time every day may be ultimately beneficial to any child. Around 30 minutes to two hours is enough.
However, parents need to introduce alternative indoor and outdoor activities. Playing games, running in the yard, interacting with other kids, helping to prepare his or her snacks, picking up a book, and learning household chores are some of these alternative activities.
Some of the most important skills that children need to learn come from real-life activities, like interacting with their peers. Try to maximize the time they spend in a social environment. The socio-emotional skills of negotiation, compromise, and sharing are too valuable to miss just because of television.