When I used to babysit a family from my hometown, I remember the mom of the children always telling me to make sure her kids only watched one 20-minute episode of TV a day. She used to tell me that her kids didn’t need to watch TV, and encouraged me to take them outside or help them make crafts instead.
She was convinced that TV-watching was detrimental to her children’s growth and development. I heard the same lecture growing up myself- my mom always told me to get up and go outside, and consistently yelled at my brothers for spending too much time playing video games.
Although I always heard that TV negatively impacted us, I was curious if there was actually any scientific evidence to back it up.
After researching, I found that the consensus is, in fact, that watching TV is bad. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believe watching TV is harmful, and recommends teenagers and older children limit their time to no more than one or two hours of educational television in one day, and for children under two to not watch any TV at all.
According to the AAP, children watch nearly 7 hours of TV in just one day. Other studies have shown that nearly 70% of toddlers typically watch 2 hours per day. Combined with the amount of time children, teens, and even toddlers spend on Ipads or phones, the amount of time spent each day in front of a screen certainly can add up.
Furthermore, an article from Raise Smart Kids also states that two year olds should not watch TV, for they believe it has no value in helping them learn. In my psychology class, we learned that brain development in children under two can only be achieved by real interaction. We learned that this is called the sensorimotor stage, where children learn the relationship between their body and their environment. In this stage, a child’s intelligence is limited to his or her own actions on the environment. And, an infant can only learn from exercising his or her sorimotor schemes (so, watching TV would not allow the child to practice his movements, and would not allow a child to interact with his environment).
A study conducted by Professor Linda Pagani, from the University of Montreal, concluded (through questioning the parents of 991 girls and 1,006 boys about their child’s daily TV habits) that every hour more a child over 2 and a half spends watching TV in a day, the more likely a child is to struggle in school and bully other classmates. We can conclude that this is because the child is not spending this time integrating the skills they would acquire by interacting with real people and by exploring their environment.
A Japanese study on 111 boys and 105 girls confirmed children who watch more TV have lower IQs, and proved that watching TV can alter the frontopolar area of the brain ( the part of the brain linked to intellectual capabilities).
I even found a study (that’s quite frightening, actually) that shows even adults can suffer serious implications from watching too much TV. This Australian study found that for every person over 25, every hour spent watching TV takes an average of 21.8 minutes off his or her life.
We can conclude that these trials are accurate because of what we learned in class in regards to how verifiable trials are. We learned that the larger the study and the greater variety of experiments a particular study has, the greater chance the p value has at being less that .05% (If you remember the study we looked at when we discusses if Prayer can heal, you can recall that since the study continued to produce varying results, the study was not statistically significant). When the p value is less than 5%, we can claim a study to be statistically significant.
Since we learned that larger and more abundant studies can lessen the possibility of chance, we can concur that TV most likely does, in fact, have a negative effect on children and adults alike; the studies we have looked at so far contain large quantities of subjects, (such as Pagani’s study), and, the studies we have looked at come from all over the world (including the Japanese study, the Australian study, and the Canadian study). Since the variety of tests all yield similar conclusions, we can consider them to be accurate.
The studies we have looked at prove that TV watching can result in a great deal of problems, including obesity, trouble paying attention, problems in school, and lack of a healthy diet and sleep schedule.
However, I was curious to see if watching TV held any positive benefits, especially the educational TV that the mom of the kids I babysit talked about.
Interestingly enough, the same Japanese study that found watching TV can result in lower IQs also noted that positive effects took place on the rGMV areas of the visual cortex and the hypothalamus (which we learned in psychology, controls the autonomic nervous system and is involved in emotional activity).
Other sources state educational television can teach children valuable lessons, basic learning skills, and introduce kids to new cultures and music.
In conclusion, although some studies point to minor neural enhancements due to TV watching, the majority of studies claim that TV watching is detrimental to physical and mental health of children and adults alike.
Much like the Depressed? Kill the Lights article we discussed in class, your decision to watch TV will all depend on if you believe the outcome has a great enough affect on your future in order for you to change your current habits.
In my opinion, based on the amount of credible research against watching TV, I would limit the amount of time I spent watching it, especially for young kids.