The Effects of Television In Young Children’s Lives

The Effects of Television On Young Viewers
Yanno Sarakinis
Farideh Dada
Mass Communication and Its Impact On Society
March 2, 2015
There have been various experiments conducted that have sought out to answer one question: is it healthy for children to watch television? Some studies insist that children, especially under the age of about three, should not watch any television, even if it’s educational. The mental and physical effects that television viewing can have on a young child can cause major developmental damage. Other studies suggest that television alone cannot do any significant damage to a child but it is instead the general parenting style that the child experiences in day to day life that can affect them.
The reality is that children generally watch a significant amount of television. According to the article “TV Has Negative Impact On Very Young Children’s Learning Abilities” prepared by Medicine & Law Weekly (2005), “fifty-nine percent of children younger than 2 years regularly watch an average of 1.3 hours of television per day” and “three- to 5-year-old children watch an average of 2 or more hours of television or videos per day.” Due to the fact that television viewing is a significant part of many children’s’ lives, it is valuable to understand how television affects the developing minds of these young kids.
Television viewing among young toddlers can have lasting mental and physical effects. The University of Montreal published an article on the findings of an investigation on what just one extra hour of television can do to a child around the ages of two to four. This article, “Toddlers and TV: Early Exposure Has Negative and Long-Term Impact (2010),” reveals that television viewing could lead to “future decrease in classroom engagement and success at math, increased victimization by classmates, have a more sedentary lifestyle, higher consumption of junk food and, ultimately, higher body mass index.” The article suggests that television keeps children away from doing things that will ultimately help them with their “cognitive, behavioral, and motor development.” Television viewing can cause significant damage to a child’s mental and physical health.
Even educational television can have negative, long-lasting effects on a young toddler. According to the article “It May Be Educational, But What Is That TV Show Really Teaching Your Preschooler?” by Iowa State University (2013), “children exposed to educational programs were more aggressive in their interactions than those who weren’t exposed.” These shocking results are due to the fact that children between the ages of two to give cannot correctly string together plots in their programming. The children will recognize conflict but do not recognize that the conflict is ultimately resolved in the end. So, a child that watches educational programming will grow accustomed to the behaviors they see during the conflict portion of the episode but not the resolution and the lesson of the episode is not actually learned. In Mass Media in a Changing World by George Rodman (2012), it is shown that classic educational children programs may lead to attention issues in the classroom. According to Rodman, these shows can teach kids that education should be “fun, fast-paced, and entertaining and therefore were blamed for the kids’ short attention spans when they got to school.” (pg. 250). So, while educational television programs attempt to teach children important lessons and show them that education can be a fun time, these programs are actually harmful to a child’s behavior.
Other studies reveal that it is not the television viewing that can be damaging to a child; rather, it is the lifestyle that the child participates in day to day that leaves the lasting, negative effects. According to “TV-Watching By Young Children Linked To Later Attention Problems,” published by Child Health Alert Inc. (2004), “there’s something about parents who allow their young children to watch TV that may be at work-for example, parents who are distracted or neglectful may allow their young children to watch a lot of TV and may also have created a household environment that promotes the development of attention problems.” This introduces the possibility that there is an association between television watching among young children and the attention their parents give to their healthy development. If this is true, it can be said that the act of watching television in itself is not harmful, it is the environment that the parents create that will affect the child.
In my opinion watching television cannot simply be debated as being bad or good since it all depends on the context and the quality of the program being watched. The article “TV Has Negative Impact On Very Young Children’s Learning Abilities” prepared by Medicine & Law Weekly (2005) says that ”we must always closely examine (1) content, especially for the youngest viewers and (2) context, especially how subgroups of children are affected in both positive and negative ways” and that “there is currently a need for prospective longitudinal studies that examine the specific content (and contexts) of children’s TV viewing and academic achievement.” This pretty much reveals that there is a lot of research that still needs to be conducted but according to this source, it is especially important to examine the specific content of the television shows that the child is watching as well as the lifestyle that he or she lives (meaning the things that the child does when they are not watching television or the reason why the child watches so much television, like if their parents are neglectful.) If a young kid watches tv, I think that television should at least be educational. I established earlier that educational television can be damaging, but according to “It May Be Educational, But What Is That TV Show Really Teaching Your Preschooler?” by Iowa State University (2013), educational television can be helpful as long as the child receives some coaching from their parents. This article states that “parents can watch their kids and help them understand the plot. Parents can comment along the way and then explain the message at the end… This will help children interpret and get the message and help them learn to watch it for those messages.” If television watching is scarce and educational, it can be helpful especially if the parent is heavily involved.

References:
Iowa State University. (2013, February 19). It may be educational, but what is that TV show really teaching your preschooler? ScienceDaily. Retrieved from ScienceDaily.
Rodman, G. (2012). Television: Reflecting and Affecting Society. In Mass Media In A Changing World (Fourth ed., p. 250). New York, New York: McGraw-Hill.
TV-Watching By Young Children Linked To Later Attention Problems. (2004, May). 22, 1-2. Retrieved from ProQuest Research Library.
University of Montreal. (2010, May 8). Toddlers and TV: Early exposure has negative and long-term impact. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from ScienceDaily.
University of Washington; TV has negative impact on very young children’s learning abilities. (2005, July 29). Medicine & Law Weekly. Retrieved from ProQuest Research Library.
Annotated References

Iowa State University. (2013, February 19). It may be educational, but what is that TV show really teaching your preschooler? ScienceDaily. Retrieved from ScienceDaily.
This article explains how “educational” television alone may not be enough to actually teach a child any lesson. In fact, it could be harmful. The article explains that children aged two to five have issues understanding conflict resolution in educational television shows. For example, a friendly, education cartoon could involve two characters fighting but in the end they make up and a lesson is taught about friendship. The child watching the show will not recognize the connection between the fight and the lesson. So, the educational program fails to teach the child much. However, if a parent is present to explain what is going on and to help the child make the connections between the plot and the overall lesson, the chid can benefit from the program. This article is helpful in that it offers a better way to approach television watching for young children.

TV-Watching By Young Children Linked To Later Attention Problems. (2004, May). 22, 1-2. Retrieved from ProQuest Research Library.
This article explains how researches tried to find a link between television watching and any signs of attention deficit disorder. In the first couple of years of a child’s life, their brain is developing and television could be responsible for the later development of attention disorders. The data was gathered by interviewing mothers through different times in their childrens’ lives from infancy to school age. It was found that about ten percent of children who watched excessive amounts of television later developed attention issues. The theory is that television watching during the crucial developmental stages of an infant’s life can cause attention issues since television provides extra, harmful stimulation. The study gives us a solution to possible attention problems: children under the age of two should not be able to watch television at all.

University of Montreal. (2010, May 8). Toddlers and TV: Early exposure has negative and long-term impact. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from ScienceDaily.
This article highlights the negative aspects of television watching in children aged two to four. Every hour of television watched among toddlers resulted in even worse math skills, worse social skills, increase in junk food consumption, sedentary lifestyle, and a higher body mass index. This article also shows that the impact of watching television after 7.5 years old continues to show negative effects on growth and development and health. This article is useful because it focuses on the physical impact of television watching as a child, even as the child grows. The bottom line is that hours watching television could be more usefully spent on other activities that are actually beneficial to a child such as playing outside or socializing with other children. This article documents a study conducted on 1,300 children, which is a large sample size, therefore the results are seemingly more credible.

University of Washington; TV has negative impact on very young children’s learning abilities. (2005, July 29). Medicine & Law Weekly. Retrieved from ProQuest Research Library.
This article shows that television watching by children under the age of three actually may have negative effects on the child’s math and cognitive abilities as they grow. However, children aged three to five are actually less inclined to be negatively affected by excessive television viewing. In fact, age-appropriate and well produced children’s shows can actually help improve cognitive ability. This article is also useful in that it provides some statistics on just how much television young children are watching. For example, for children three to five, an average of about two hours of television are watched and most of that television is not educational. This article shows that under the age of three is really the time when television can negatively affect a child’s future but beyond age three, television can be used as a learning tool. This article recognizes that television viewing for children can have extremely varied results depending on what is watched, how often, and what age.

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