Family Works [March 31, 2019]
Speaking on TV and students
More than half of the students in the United States watch more than three hours of TV every school day. Most parents do little or nothing to limit their child’s viewing time. When asked, the majority of parents believe that too much television is unhealthy, but don’t seriously attempt (outside occasional nagging) to reduce the time their children sit in front of the screen. TV is a powerful medium that invades most homes, taking control of the family room, kitchen (Heard about the new refrigerators with a digital TV in the door? You no longer have to worry about missing something when getting a bite to eat or something to drink); bedrooms, and even bathrooms. With TVs in nearly every room, seeking to limit TV time seems next to impossible. Moving our TVs to the attic is a little over-reactive and quite honestly too many adults would find themselves joining the kids in the attic nightly.
Really, there isn’t a need to lug the TV to the attic. TV, in and of itself, isn’t bad or good. It’s how you use your TV. In fairness, let’s look at both sides of the issue, the productive and the destructive potential of TV.
The Bad: (1) Once a child exceeds 10 hours per week (about 1½ hours per day) of TV viewing, reading, math, and written expression are much lower than students who watch less than 10 hours per week. The more hours watched, the worse the effect. (2) Peer and social adjustment is impacted negatively by increased time in front of the TV. Developing social skills demands interaction with others, not TV. (3) There appears to be a relationship between heavy viewing of cartoons and low self-esteem. (4) Heavy amounts of childhood TV viewing which promotes violence are associated with adult participation in crimes. Prison inmates watch more TV as children than those outside of prison. (5) TV viewing can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can seriously effect the physical health of your child. (6) Unmonitored TV viewing encourages increased activity not only in violent behavior, but also teenage pregnancy, sexual perversions, disrespect for adults, and stereotyping of minority groups. (7) Time spent in front of the TV by both child and parent increases the likelihood that homework won’t get done, which greatly contributes to academic failure.
The Good: (1) Moderate doses of TV (around 10 hours per week) is more beneficial than no TV or too much TV. (2) Preschoolers (males in particular) who watch educational programs behave less aggressively. (3) Educational programs enhance reading comprehension skills for preschool and grade school children. (4) By exposing a student to programs with high information content (for example news programs or documentaries), the student has a better opportunity to increase knowledge and skills.
Again, the real issue isn’t whether TV is bad or good, productive or destructive. The real issue is how you use your TV.
Rob Coombs is a professor with a doctor of ministry degree and a doctor of philosophy with an emphasis in Family Systems.
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