Most all parents are aware that too many hours in front of the TV screen is not good for children. However, most kids enter the world of television at a very early age.
According to one study:
There are a lot of problems with this.
- Two thirds of infants and toddlers spend an average of two hours a day in front of the television screen.
- Children under six spend an average of two hours watching TV and videos.
- Children and teens 8 to 18 years are in front of the television about four hours a day and spend an additional two hours on the computer or playing video games.
For one, spending more than four hours a day watching TV can lead to obesity. Aggressive behavior in kids has been linked to TV violence. And television characters often portray risky behaviors like smoking and drinking, setting poor examples.
This is bad enough, but a new study, called the Peach Project, reports even more disturbing news. Too much time in front of the TV screen or computer monitor it can be detrimental to children's mental health.
No amount of exercise will negate the psychological damage.
Researchers found that children spending at least two hours watching television or using the computer for recreational use led to higher psychological difficulty scores when compared to those who spent less time engaged in TV or computer activities. It appears that no amount of time playing outside can correct this.
The bottom line is that regular prolonged exposure to television and computer screens increases the likelihood of children developing psychological problems . . . and no amount of exercise will alleviate that.
The Peach Project assessed over 1000 kids ranging in ages 10 to 11 years old. Researchers used a questionnaire to gather data about how long they spent engaged in television as well as assessing their mental health. They also measured and recorded their physical activity.
During the survey children were read statements and asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement. The statements included, “I am often unhappy, downhearted or tearful” and, “I generally play alone or keep to myself.”
Researchers concluded that the risk of emotional problems such as extreme shyness or avoiding social activities in favor of a screen is only slightly higher in children who were sedentary or rarely took part in physical activity.
This means parents can't rely on physical activity to make up for too much time in front of the television or computer screen. While physical activity is great in a lot of ways it will not negate too many hours engaged with television. Another study found that increased levels of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder correlated with the amount of time spent watching television.Suggested guidelines for screen viewing.
The United States has adopted guidelines that advise children under two should watch no more than two hours of television a day. Even that sounds a bit high.
And while it's true that some television can be educational, the TV screen should never replace playing and exploring, spending quality time with family, and as children get older, being physically active, doing homework, or reading.
It's up to parents to control the amount of TV the children are exposed to while letting them know it's okay for occasional entertainment... but not for constant replacement of being actively engaged in life.