Most of today’s homes have, at least, one television and many of these sets are hooked to a commercial cable system that provides a seemingly limitless number of programs. Television has a consideration impact on influencing our morals, thinking and culture. Why and to what extent should parents control their children’s TV watching? There is certainly nothing inherently wrong with watching TV. The problem is how much television should a child watch and what effect it has on his life.
Some parents, who worry that their children are being exposed to programs, meant for adults that they are too young to handle, tend to say television is the culprit. Setting limits on television viewing is crucial to your child’s development because research has shown that as the amount of time spent watching TV goes up, the amount of time devoted not only to homework and study but other important aspects of life such as social development and physical activities decreases.
The National Coalition for The Protection of Children and Families, Annual Report 1995 wrote, “Today’s kids are learning their attitudes and values more from television and movies than from any other source. It is estimated that in the United States, by the time a youngster gets out of high school, he has watched more than 20,000 hours of television, witnessed 15,000 murders, and watched 100,000 alcohol-related commercials.”
Jerry Johnson in his book It’s Killing Our Kids wrote, “Television programming and advertisements convey the message that drinking is fun, smoking is glamorous, and drugs are the ‘in’ thing. No wonder the crime rate is so high.”
Advertisers are good at conditioning their audience. While bringing us lots of information, television has also contributed heavily to degrading our tastes; young children are easily attracted to and seduced by the flashy colors, intense sounds and fast moving images on the television screen thereby corrupting our morals increasing juvenile delinquency.
Watch the commercials with your children and talk together about what you’ve seen. Companies spend huge amount of money for commercials. Children see an ad for a particular brand of soft drink and go to the supermarket and buy that brand. They don’t want just any soft drink but only that brand. Why? Because they had been influenced by the commercial and act accordingly.
Television can be such an exciting medium for learning, but children need to use it wisely, not waste their childhood by watching things that are inappropriate or unacceptable. At this stage, there is a tremendous amount of learning to be done and should not be wasted watching television for too long because watching one favorite show leads to watching television for an extended period time. This reduces the time a child has left in her day to do other things. Children who watch excessive amounts of television, spend less time involved in creative activities and vigorous exercise, and develop an unhealthy pattern of passivity.
As youngsters get older, they should gradually be given discretion over program choice, as long as parents continue to monitor their viewing habits. It’s important for parents to spend time with their children in front of the set, and then talk about what they’ve seen. Television has some advantages though; it is an important teacher to some children.
One of the most disturbing is that young children become more violent themselves as teenagers, and begin to believe that violence is an acceptable way to deal with conflicts and problems because children often believe everything they see and hear on television commercials and tend to have more encounters with the law as adults.
Dr. Gail Gross wrote, “We know that for the most part, children learn from both experience and social learning or role modeling. Therefore, when children, especially young children, see violence on television, they have a difficult time differentiating between what is real or what is make believe, and tend to emulate or copy what they are seeing. Furthermore, there is a chemical change in the brain, similar to that which is seen in post-traumatic stress disorder; if enough violence is viewed, the brain reacts as if the person doing the viewing has actually been abused. This is especially true if the violence is one sided, as in the case of sadistic violence. Now add to this the fact that children who watch violence on television have brains that are still developing, and you can see how really dangerous TV viewing can be.”
What parents can do
Since television is clearly here to stay, parents are entitled to monitor what their children are actually watching on TV. The parents should consider a number of things: what TV offers the child in terms of information and knowledge and the impact of violence and sex, and the influence of commercials. Parents can and should establish house rules for TV viewing, how many hours a week children should watch television.
Parents should supervise their children's TV viewing by watching at least one episode of whatever their children's selections are so that the parents decide if the programming is appropriate and communicate their personal feelings about undesirable programs by discouraging their children from watching them. When programs designed specifically for young children go off, the television should go off. Beside this, parents should monitor the amount of TV their kids watch because it could negatively affect their vision. Watching too much TV can negatively affect a kid’s vision because they are trying to focus hard on what they are watching and can strain the eye. It could also take up valuable studying time they need each day, and lastly kids can become less intelligent. Parents can utilize the v-chip or cable/satellite parental controls on the less monitored televisions maintain control even when they are not in the room.
Parents can write to their local television station or to the program’s sponsors. While parents need time for themselves, they should avoid using television to keep their children occupied while they relax and enjoy downtime. Encourage your children to spend their free time in ways other than TV watching, such as playing football, reading, or any creative exercise like painting. Parents should view current events on television with their children so that they can explain any confusing or inappropriate material to their children.