TV and Our Kids

ImageRest and recreation is a must for all people, of all ages and races. That's why there's a lot of money being spent to promote and ultimately to avail of recreational and entertainment services. However, not all recreations are actually promoting the well-being of those who avail of it. Surprisingly, the ones that we suspect less may be the number one threat of all to our families.


Many many studies have been pouring in showing that watching TV is bad not only for kids but even adults. The damage can be done in many areas. Some of the findings of studies are:

  •  behavioral modification - which means your kids may act differently after watching TV shows like violent or R-rated shows
  • unhealthy eating habits - commercials are specifically targetted to children and are well-thought of, even employing psychology in a way that tend to develop life-long rather than immediate consumers
  • obesity
  • low grades and academic performance
  • disorderly sleeping habits
  • it destroys families - Cheryl Pavlowski states this in her book "Glued to the Tube: The Threat of Television Addiction to Today's Family"
  • television addiction

USA today published an article about a study done on 4,500 middle school students which study also appeared in the Pediatrics Magazine. The highlight of the study was that boys are especially succeptible and R-rated TV shows are most detrimental in the class performance of school kids. The reason for this may be summarized by a statement of an online author named Seth Stevenson who said: "We're raising a generation of media addicts. Inert eyeballers of movies, DVDs, and whatever's playing on the Juice Box. Most of this stuff requires little effort, initiative, or imagination."  TV is simply feeding information to our children in such quantity that they are no longer given any chance to think or imagine. For children which are not yet fully developed mentally and psychologically, their grownth may forever be hampered. Classroom activities where the effect are significantly observed are inability to do complex tasks, analyze complex problems and overall literacy

Another major threat of television is addiction. But isn't addiction only for substance abusers? Scientific American February 2002 issue ran a article about  television addiction. In that article, the author drew a parallel between addicts of substances or drugs and televisions watching. Both are said to be characterized by excessive craving, spending a lot of time using the substance,; using it more often than one intends; thinking about reducing use or making repeated unsuccessful efforts to reduce use; giving up important social, family or occupational activities to use it; and reporting withdrawal symptoms when one stops using it. 

The article further states: "All these criteria can apply to people who watch a lot of television. That does not mean that watching television, per se, is problematic. Television can teach and amuse; it can reach aesthetic heights; it can provide much needed distraction and escape. The difficulty arises when people strongly sense that they ought not to watch as much as they do and yet find themselves strangely unable to reduce their viewing. Some knowledge of how the medium exerts its pull may help heavy viewers gain better control over their lives."  For a complete text of the article, you may visit the Scientific American site at or you may click this link.  

But what about "good" tv shows? In her book "Endangered Minds: Why Children Don't Think And What We Can Do About It", Jane Healey discusses brain development in children at great length. She cites some of the studies that indicate that children who view Sesame Street on a regular basis, express shorter attention spans than those who do not view such programming.

Even Madonna whose fame and fortune are partly attributable to the ubiquity of television says "TV is trash." She claims that her kids do not watch TV and she herself was raised without it.

Furthermore, a 2002 study revealed that people who watch violent or sexually-explicit TV shows are less likely to remember the commercials, compared to viewers of less explicit programming.

A 2003 University of Michigan study adds evidence to the theory that TV violence viewed as children leads to aggressive adult behavior when the children grow up, including spousal abuse and other crimes – no matter how they behaved during childhood. What was new in the study was that girls are affected as much as boys.

All these bad reports about the effect of TV prompted one mother to wage a campaign against television. She has an online site that contains articles and advice for  those who may want to take this threat seriously. Her site is found at

As parents are burdened with work outside the home to continue to provide for the needs of the family, children are usually left for hours at home doing nothing but stare at televisions screens. Some parents may have thanked heaven for sending such a non-stop, non-tiring child entertainer and babysitter. And that exactly is the role of television in some homes nowadays. All the studies mentioned above, however, should make us parents take notice and do some intervention before it is too late.

Some may already agree with the many assertions above but how does watching tv destroy families as one author claims? Isn't she rather melodramatic in stating thus? Well her major point is that with tv in our homes and kids listening to tv more than to their parents, the parents easily lose the ability to be role models, even source of advice as kids grow up. Tv is the one that steals important roles (mentor, hero, friend) away from parents and thus undermines their ability to shape their children's values The latter will ultimately find role models from television than from their parents. This effectively debases the family.

Finally, statistics show that in America, tv viewing time is around 4.5 hours per person per day while less than an hour per week is spent by parents talking with their kids.  In the Philippines, we may not be too far behind. Isn't it about time we start questioning the object that takes too much of our time? When we have kids who know more brand logos than plant species, we have a big problem in our hands.