Excessive TV viewing can have harmful effects for both children and adults. Watching hours of TV can create physical problems for viewers. Violent images can affect adults- but are particularly harmful to children.

The impact of TV viewing on children

Kidshealth.org comments on studies by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP recommends that children over the age of 2 years old watch no more than 2 hours of quality programming a day.

The studies categorize three problem areas for kids who watch too much TV:

·  Physical issues: Watching hours of TV each day interferes with other healthy activities. Children watching too much TV are less physically active and may be overweight. This group also spends less time on reading, homework and interacting with family.

·  Social development: According to WebMD, more than 2 hours of TV a day can impact the social development of children between 2 ½ and 5 ½ years old. A John Hopkins study found that children watching excessive amounts of TV had attention deficit issues. Children in the study who were older than 5 ½ years old had fewer social skills if they watched too much TV.

·  Violence: Kids who watch hours of TV may be exposed to many types of violent images in TV programming. These children may express more aggressive behavior than kids who watch less TV.

·  Risky Behavior: Watching TV may also expose children to characters who depict risky behavior. Kids may see characters smoking, drinking and reinforcing stereotypes. Children may decide that these types of risky behaviors are acceptable, based on what they see on TV.

Anti-drug messages on TV

Children are exposed to a variety of anti-drug messages, some of which they see on TV. Many of these messages play on people’s fears and are intended to scare the viewer into avoiding drug use.

As this surprising report on anti-drug campaigns points out, the federal government and other entities have been producing drug prevention campaigns on TV since the 1970s. The “Just Say No” campaign, among others, was heavily promoted.

The report explains that many of these campaigns were not well researched or properly executed. Other approaches have been more successful in preventing drug use. For example, community engagement and the use of mentors have generated results.

There may be other factors that have a bigger impact on decisions about drug use. Family history and parental involvement may influence a person’s decision about drug use, but determining a cause and effect relationship is difficult.

In spite of decades of anti-drug campaigns, the report states that overall drug use has doubled since 1992.

TV as a learning and development tool

Limited use of TV can be a learning tool for children. The first two years of a child’s life is critical to brain development. TV and other electronics encourage a child to explore and play.

Using technology can also allow a child to increase their interaction with other people. As kids grow, they may learn the alphabet or develop an interest in science through TV programs. Television is also a primary source of news and information for both kids and adults.

If TV use is limited, the technology can be an important tool for a child’s development.

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Blast is Boston’s Online Magazine

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