Recently I wrote about the importance of having television
black-out time in the home.
Barrington H. Brennen
In this article, I will share
about the dangers of television, especially for the young,
and a few guidelines for television viewing.
First, I want to ease the mind of television or movie
lovers. I am not condemning television or video viewing
itself. Nor am I stating that there is nothing good we can
gain from the watching of television or videos on any device
whether it is a smart phone, Kindle, iPad, iPod or Tablet.
In fact, I know individuals whose lives have been changed
just because of what they watched on television. I know of
relationships improved and wounded people healed. I love the
television. But I must hasten to say that the dangers of
indiscriminate television viewing are well documented.
Indiscriminate television watching is doing more harm than
good to families today. The latest research indicates that
in the case of children, just the fact of watching videos or
television is dangerous to their minds and bodies.
The April 2010 issue of the magazine Pediatrics states:
“Children who watch television experience shortened
attention spans. Television viewing considerably enhances
the chances, based on number of hours of television watched,
of developing ADDs (attention deficit disorders) later on in
THE WORSE AGE TO WATCH TELEVISION
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that
children under the age of two not watch television. Dr.
Lorraine Day in her article of Attention Deficit Disorder
states: “It is reported that children watch an average of 43
hours of TV per week, that's longer than the average adult
work week. While watching, they rapidly become almost
hypnotized. It has been shown scientifically that within
minutes of beginning to watch TV, the brain changes from the
alert brain waves (beta waves) to the hypnotic waves (alpha
waves) where the judgment center of the brain is bypassed.
So the violence and decadence that the child sees, bypasses
the judgment center in the brain and is implanted in the
child's brain without any ability on the child's part to
decide whether what they are seeing is right or wrong. The
violence and decadence are accepted by the brain without any
moral judgment being applied to it. It then becomes part of
the child's permanent subconscious. What goes into a child's
mind is just as important as what goes into his or her
The British Medical Journal published: “Children under three
should be kept away from television altogether, according to
the review of a study which looks at the amount of "screen
time" toddlers endure each day.” Dr Aric Sigman, an
associate fellow of the British Psychological Society, has
written about the dangers of too much television. He stated
in a 2007 article in the journal Biology that there are at
least 15 ways TV viewing was damaging the health of
children. These ranged from obesity to early puberty,
autism, Type 2 diabetes and even early onset Alzheimer’s. He
warned: “Watching television, irrespective of the content,
is increasingly associated with unfavorable biological and
Let me share with you some guidelines I shared more than ten
years ago with a few new additions.
GUIDELINES FOR CHILDREN TELEVISION VIEWING
(1) Do not let your children watch television during
the school week (Monday to Thursday). Let them focus on the
school work and play. Neither should the parents sit and
watch television in the presence of the children and expect
the children to be disinterested. Remember that children
learn best by example during these early years. My
preliminary finding on the effects of television on the
development of children indicates that the less television
watched by children, the better their social and academic
performance (Council for Family Research, 1998). Generally,
children who do not watch television between Monday and
Thursday are less aggressive, more sociable and cooperative
(2) Preselect television programs that are uplifting
for the children. Soap operas, violent pictures, pictures
containing vulgar language or scenes, rude comedies, etc.,
should not be seen by our children.
(3) At no time should a parent allow a child to sit
and watch television for indefinite periods. One hour of
television viewing for children less than ten years of age
provides a heavy dosage of information to process. Secondly,
the danger of your child developing an unreal view of the
world and his or her surrounding is seriously increased.
During holiday times our children spend too much time
watching television. Even teenagers and adults should not
develop the habit of watching more than 2 to 3 hours of
television without taking a significant break. Parents
should decide that the television will be on only for
specific hours at a time and only at certain times of the
day. Again, it is better for your child to learn how to
entertain him or herself than to be entertained.
(4) Do not have a television in your child’s room. It
is ideal that a home should have no more than 1 or 2
televisions. Make television viewing family time. Too many
televisions in the home rob the family of valuable
togetherness. It also creates a problem for managing time
and programming of the television.
(5) Do not train your child to fall asleep with the
television on. This helps to create undisciplined behavior
in the child. While sleeping, unwanted subliminal messages
may still enter the subconscious, leaving the child
vulnerable to literally anything.
(6) Here is a suggestion from another psychologist.
“Limit television to 10 hours per week. A nice way to do
this is to allot a "TV allowance," just as a child might
receive a monetary allowance each week. Try making paper
slips with the phrase "1/2 hour TV time" written on them. A
child might receive 20 such slips every Sunday night, and
"pay" 1 slip for each show or half hour of video games they
play. This way the total TV exposure is limited, and you do
not have to haggle over each show. He recommends children
under three should not watch any TV, between three and five
they should watch no more than half an hour of “good quality
programming” a day, going up to an hour for five to
12-year-olds and an hour and a half for teenagers.”
(7) Do not eat while the TV is on. Eating in front of
the TV is a prescription for obesity. That's where the
phrase "couch potato" comes from!
Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist.
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