Aside from Raine’s devotion to the TV, and her diminished desire to think of things to do on her own, numerous studies too, have shown the ill effects of TV on children, such as:
- Obesity. Did you know that you use less energy watching TV than sitting down doing nothing (that’s not a call to sit and do nothing though). TV time takes away from time that kids can be actively playing—working those motor skills and stimulating brain development. And watching TV is often accompanied by mindless snacking—usually unhealthy food. Also, TV ads are often for more of these not-too-healthy eats.
- Trauma. I remember when I was about 4, someone left the TV playing and I caught a scene of the classic horror show Gabi ng Lagim. It was a stupid scene actually—the doorbell rang and when the girl opened it, there was nobody there. But all this was accompanied by a crescendo of terrifying music, which did its work: terrified me. To this day, the doorbell ringing when I’m alone in the house gives me goose bumps. But not all traumas are as silly as my experience. Children between ages 2-7 can’t quite distinguish reality from fantasy, so monsters—even cartoon ones—sharks or crocodiles in a feeding frenzy can scare them. Children between 8 and 12 can get scared of natural disasters, violence or harm befalling them.
- Poor school performance. TV doesn’t engage the brain as much as other activities such as reading or playing games can. Studies have shown links between long hours of TV in childhood and higher percentages of dropping out in high school or college. I guess it goes back to TV displacing other more worthwhile activities, such as reading or interacting with others.
- Developmental issues. My cousin just told me that there’s a new cable channel dedicated to babies and toddlers! With all the hype and the rush of trying to give our children the edge, many parents willingly embrace these made-for-babies shows and videos. But some studies show that they may be ineffective, if not harmful. A paper published by the University of California Cooperative Extension says that watching TV produces alpha brain waves, and this allows the brain to take in information without processing or analyzing it. This doesn’t forebode well for the brains of babies and young children, which need stimulation to develop its complex circuitry. Controlled eye movement—essential for reading—also isn’t addressed adequately by TV.
- Language development. Another cousin’s daughter spoke early, with a charming little accent and exclamations like “How wonderful! Thank you.” Then her teachers discovered that she had some receptive language problems. She could speak beautifully, but her responses were not really appropriate to the situations. In other words, she was just copying what she heard from the shows she was watching without real comprehension. For language skills to develop properly, there needs to be listening, processing and interacting—TV addresses the hearing, mostly.
- Moral issues. Violence, sex, drug and alcohol use, bad habits, wrong values—you commonly see these on TV shows (even cartoons are not above them; remember old school stuff like Tom and Jerry?). Studies show that children more exposed to these issues on TV are not only more prone to the vices, but also get desensitized (I guess that’s why kids ask, what’s the big deal?). Of course, there are good shows out there that do depict good values, but again, you’d have to screen the shows and watch with your kid to explain.
- Behavioral problems. There have been links to increased aggression in TV-watching children. A research study predicts that children’s chances of developing attention deficit disorders increase by 10% for every hour of daily TV. So that’s a 20% increase in probability of ADHD for every two hours of TV time daily!
- Decrease in meaningful family interaction. I’m guilty of this. When I’m watching a show or a movie, I absolutely hate being interrupted, and I do NOT like anyone talking to me—be it The Hubby, Raine or possibly even Brad Pitt. TV robs us of time that we could be talking to each other, strengthening our bonds. Even watching TV while eating meals is detrimental, more so having TVs in individual rooms.
I read a great summary on the effects of TV on the University of Michigan website—it’s worth taking a look. They also include various informative links on TV, media, its effects and how to manage it.