It has long been said that parents should limit how much exposure their kids have to television programs. The importance of monitoring the type of shows the kids watch has also been stressed. And the reasons for such strict control on children’s TV watching behavior is quite simple — to ensure that they are not influenced by negative habits shown on television shows.
Early exposure to bad habits
Through television programs, children gain early exposure to things like drugs, alcohol, sex, and so on. This would not have been possible otherwise. TV shows that showcase heroes as people who look “cool” while taking drugs, engaging in gratuitous sex, and committing extreme violence imprint in the children’s minds that these actions are okay.
One study shows that children who constantly watch television have a higher chance of getting a criminal conviction in adulthood. According to the study, for every hour a child spent watching TV during weeknights, the risk of committing a criminal action increased by 30 percent.
Richard Gallagher, a psychiatry professor at the NYU Langone Medical Center, told Everyday Health: “I think that the children who watch three hours of TV as 5- to 7-year-olds are probably kids that aren’t being read to and aren’t being supervised or played with that often… They may not be getting the kind of input that would help them maintain control over their behavior.”
A research team from Japan also found that excessive TV watching had the ability to alter the structure of the brain. And in kids, this could literally mean the development of lifelong behaviors and tendencies. This is why child psychologists have been advocating strict parental regulation on the type of content children watch.
Another huge negative influence of TV is that it presents a much distorted, exaggerated view of the world that has little to do with reality. Children basically have no exposure to the reality of the world. They live in the cocoon of protection offered by the family. As such, when their only source of knowledge about the outside world becomes the television shows they watch, their views about the world will naturally become distorted.
For example, a child who is exposed to TV shows in America that show Africa in a poor light, where Africans are shown consistently as living in slums and as poor, may end up believing that the entire African continent is economically and technologically backward, and that the people who live there are kind of “lesser” than they are.
Less interaction between kids and parents
Various studies have also found television to be a major reason for low interaction between children and their parents. Psychology Today conducted a study in which they observed three sets of mothers and children — the first group watched TV programs, the second group had mothers reading books to their children, while in the third group, the mothers played with their children using toys.
The researchers found that the TV watching group saw little to no communication between the mothers and their children. Most of the time, both of them blankly observed the images on the TV. And even if the child were to make a comment, the mother would say something that was completely unrelated to the child’s statements. In contrast, groups in which the mother read and played with their children saw a very high rate of communication between the two parties.
As such, children who grow up watching TV are more likely to have fewer instances of productive communication with their parents. And this lack of communication, combined with the bad influences from TV shows, can create some serious psychological damage to the child.