Television And Our Kids

When I was a kid, the television was filled with wholesome television shows like Family Ties or the Facts of Life. Parents barely gave a second thought when their youngsters spent a couple hours in front of the television. But TV isn’t what it used to be. There are more than 100 channels available via cable in most American homes and much of the programming is shocking to those of us that grew up on cookie cutter family television shows such as the Brady Bunch or the Cosby Show.

It is frightening to think about how violence and sexual images are part of our childrens’ landscape. A Surgeon General’s report last year concluded that 61% of all TV programming contains violence. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a child who watches three to four hours a day of noneducational TV will see about 8,000 small-screen murders by the time he or she completes grade school. That’s unsettling news for parents and pediatricians alike. American children spend an average of 6 hours, 32 minutes each day watching TV or using other media (including the Internet, videotapes, video games, and radio). That’s more time than they devote to any other activity except sleep, according to the AAP. According to child psychiatrist Michael Brody, MD, most parents don’t even spend that much time with their children.” Television has a very big influence, and a lot of it is negative. There are hundreds of studies showing a connection between violence on TV and its impact on children — from aggressive behavior to sleep disturbances.” According to Brody. While experts concur that television can entertain and inform, many programs may have an undeniably negative influence on childhood behavior and values.

So, how can we still let movies, television and video games be part of the lives of our children? We have to pay attention to exactly what they are watching, listening to, and exposed to. This is within our control as parents. Mitigating the negative impact may be as simple as being involved in the decision making process. Don’t allow them to watch movies with excessive violence. Don’t buy them games with violent content and check out their latest music selection. Explain to them why you are making the decision you are making and most importantly, stick to your guns. No means no. While this can be oftentimes the hardest part of the equation, it will pay off, I promise!

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