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Causes and effects of television on children (young people)



Watching television is one of the things that entertain life and it brings in pleasure to the eyes but there are also consequences of watching TV preferably to the young ones. Research will focus on the causes and effects of watching TV catering to young people, specifically the children of today. Several children spend more time watching TV than doing any other activity except sleeping as watching too much television is unhealthy for young people because of the violent adult programming, the influence on children to mimic the actions they see, and the harmful effects it has on a child's ability to learn. Watching TV causes violence to children as such violent acts are perpetrated by the good guys, whom kids have been taught to emulate. Even though kids are taught by their parents that it's not right to hit, television says it's OK to bite, hit, or kick if you're the good guy. This can lead to confusion when kids try to understand the difference between right and wrong. And even the bad guys on TV aren't always held responsible or punished for their actions.

Young children are particularly frightened by scary and violent images. Simply telling kids that those images aren't real won't console them, because they can't yet distinguish between fantasy and reality. Behavior problems, nightmares and difficulty sleeping may be consequence of exposure to media violence. Reasoning with kids this age will help them, so it's important to provide reassuring and honest information to help ease fears, consider not letting your kids view programs that they may find frightening. Watching TV causes risky and or alarming behaviors to children as in fact, watching TV of children present major cause of undesirable behaviors as indicated by Van Hoose (1983, pp. 97-100), "television has the potential to make substantial contribution to the development of young people, say these writers, who argue that this contribution cannot be realized unless middle level educators help young people develop the types of skills and insight they need to use the medium wisely". On the other hand, TV is full of programs and commercials that depict risky behaviors such as sex and substance abuse as cool, fun, and exciting. And often, there's no discussion about the consequences of drinking alcohol, doing drugs, smoking cigarettes, and having premarital sex.

Indeed, studies have shown that teens who watch lots of sexual content on TV are more likely to initiate intercourse or participate in other sexual activities earlier than peers who don't watch sexually explicit shows. Alcohol ads on TV have actually increased over the last few years and more underage kids are being exposed to them than ever. A recent study by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth found that youth exposure to alcohol ads on TV increased by 30% from 2001 to 2006. Watching TV leads to child obesity and other health problems as health experts have long linked excessive TV watching to obesity significant health problem today. While watching TV, kids are inactive and tend to snack. They're also bombarded with ads that encourage them to eat unhealthy foods such as potato chips and empty-calorie soft drinks that often become preferred snack foods. Studies have shown that decreasing the amount of TV kids watched led to less weight gain and lower body mass index, measurement derived from someone's weight and height.

Watching TV can cause autism, having autistic children on the rise as autism is estimated to affect approximately one in every 166 children, yet the cause or causes of the condition are not well understood. One of the current theories concerning the condition is that among a set of children vulnerable to developing the condition because of their underlying genetics, the condition manifests itself when such child is exposed to environmental trigger. It implies that the amount of television young child watches is positively related to the amount of precipitation in the child's community, if television is trigger for autism, then autism should be more prevalent in communities that receive substantial precipitation noting that childhood television viewing being important trigger for autism. Watching TV leads to brain development effects as with television programs, whether kids under two years of age should be watching becomes an important question.  While we are learning more all the time about brain development as TV viewing with later attention problems, like autism as mentioned earlier. Aside, TV scares or traumatizes a child as scary looking things like grotesque monsters especially frighten children aged two to seven as telling them that the images aren't real does not help because kids under age eight can't always tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Violent threats shown on TV can cause school-aged kids to feel fright and worry. When the threat is shown as news it creates stronger fears than when it is shown as fictional (Hancox, Milne and Poulton, 2005).

Watching television affect performance in school as one research study found that TV's effects on education were long term.  The study found that watching TV as a child affected educational achievement at age 26.  Watching more TV in childhood increased chances of dropping out of school and decreased chances of getting college degree, even after controlling for confounding factors (van der Molen and Bushman, 2008). Childhood TV habits are risk factor for many adult health problems, as one study looked at adults at age 26, how much TV they had watched as children.  Researchers found that 17 percent of overweight, 15 percent of raised serum cholesterol, 17 percent of smoking, and 15 percent of poor fitness can be attributed to watching television for more than 2 hours day during childhood and adolescence (Hancox, Milne and Poulton, 2004). Children may attempt to mimic stunts seen on TV, watching TV can cause sleep problems such television viewing is associated with altered sleep patterns and sleep disorders among children and adolescents. Regular sleep schedules are an important part of healthy sleep.

Study found that infants and toddlers who watch TV have more irregular sleep schedules.  TV viewing may promote alcohol use, the presence of alcohol on TV runs the gamut from drinking or talks about drinking on prime-time shows, to beer ads, to logos displayed at sporting events. Many studies have shown that alcoholic drinks are the most common beverage portrayed on TV, they are almost never shown in negative light. Children who watch TV are more likely to smoke, even though tobacco ads are banned on TV, young people still see people smoking on programs and movies shown on television.  The tobacco industry uses product placement in films (Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, 2003). Children get lots of information about sexuality from television as certain parents don't talk to their kids about sex and relationships, birth control and sexually transmitted diseases. Most schools do not offer complete sex education programs. So kids get much of their information about sex from TV, children are probably not learning what their parents would like them to learn about sex from TV. Sexual content is real presence on TV in soap operas, music videos, prime time shows and advertisements all contain lots of sexual content, but usually nothing about contraception or safer sex.  

Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth.  Alcohol advertising on television, 2001 to 2003:  more of the same.  Executive Summary.  Available at:  Accessed 20 July 2009


Hancox RJ, Milne BJ, Poulton R. Association of television viewing during childhood with poor educational achievement. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005 Jul;159(7):614-8


Hancox RJ, Milne BJ, Poulton R.  Association between child and adolescent television viewing and adult health: a longitudinal birth cohort study.  Lancet 2004; 364:257-262

Van Hoose J. Television: A Major Cause of Undesirable Behavior. NASSP Bulletin, Vol. 67, No. 463, 97-100 (1983)


van der Molen JH, Bushman BJ. Children's direct fright and worry reactions to violence in fiction and news television programs. J Pediatr. 2008 Sep;153(3):420-4. Epub 2008 Apr 28


Zimmerman FJ, Glew GM, Christakis DA, Katon W. Early cognitive stimulation, emotional support, and television watching as predictors of subsequent bullying among grade-school children. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005 Apr;159(4):384-8




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