Even those people who swear they’ll never let their children watch too much TV end up softening their position when they actually have children. The fact is that kids love TV, and parents love the break they get when their little ones are quiet and occupied. But is putting a TV in your child’s bedroom a good idea? We look at the evidence.
TV can cause health problems and obesity
According to Little Lucy Willow, “scientists from the University of California say that children who spend more than four hours a day in front of a screen are four times more likely to suffer cardiovascular diseases in later life.” It’s easy to imagine why. Children naturally run around, play and engage with others, whereas slouching motionless in front of a TV gives them almost zero opportunity to move and develop motor skills, play in the fresh air or get their heart rates up.
Every minute your child spends in front of the TV is a minute not spent on healthy physical activity. According to the NHS, children with a TV in their bedrooms have a generally more sedentary lifestyle and this increases their risk of obesity and all its associated problems. What’s more, junk food advertising can be particularly effective on children, and encourage unhealthy or mindless snacking while watching.
TV can influence your child’s behaviour
You don’t have to be a researcher to know that children are little sponges that absorb everything they see around them. Nevertheless, University of Michigan scientists find that two-thirds of all programming contains violence, with even more in children’s shows than shows for adults. Children can become numb or desensitized to violence, or find themselves with reduced empathy or willingness to help others.
Many separate studies have found that TV is linked to increased aggression, and can even traumatize some kids. Sometimes adults can forget how truly frightening some images can be for young children. A child may witness something horrifying on TV and be unable to sleep, convinced that the world is a far more violent, horrible and unsafe place than they once thought.
Children are always learning, so it’s important to be aware of what they’re seeing, taking in, and mimicking. Children under 8 years can’t separate fantasy from reality as well as adults can. This is why it’s a good idea to monitor what your child watches, and talk to them about the things they’ll inevitably see on TV. This is far easier to do if a TV is in a shared room in the house, and not a child’s bedroom.
TV can teach poor lessons about morality, sexuality and diversity
The stories kids watch on TV can have lasting effects on their attitudes to themselves and others. Racism and sexism may abound, with disproportionate representation and often negative portrayals of women, minorities, or simply those who are different. The “good guys” are typically male and win the day with violence, and aggressive behaviour is frequently glamorized. In short, TV programming can instil harmful ideology in your child, not to mention the enormous exposure to advertising that encourages consumerism from an early age.
Finally, even if you don’t drink or smoke yourself, your child may see countless images glamorizing alcohol and cigarettes – in fact, the more TV a child watches, the more likely they are to smoke or drink.
TV can interfere with your child’s education
Some very concerning studies show that increased TV viewing is directly linked with poorer performance at school, and that these consequences have been shown to last well into college years. Researchers have found that kids who watch a lot of TV spend less time reading, doing homework, engaging with others, sleeping or thinking critically. TV can impact verbal, cognitive and emotional development.
Are there any advantages to kids watching TV?
Having said all this, what’s important is that parents take the time to educate their children and teach them how to be media savvy. Talk to your kids about what they see on TV, and monitor the content closely. After all, some educational programs are designed to help childhood language and cognitive development, and can be great fun.
While there are certainly downsides to watching TV, you have far more control if you can supervise TV time or watch a program as a family. Choose programs that will teach your children lessons in line with your own values, or those that inspire or fascinate them. Ultimately, keeping your child’s room TV-free gives you more control over what your child does and doesn’t watch.
Is there a TV in your child’s bedroom? Did you know about the above factors? Or perhaps you are dead against having a TV in your child’s bedroom? Do share in a comment below.
Ruby Clarkson is an emerging freelance writer who focuses on family life, elderly care, and anything in between. When she isn’t writing, she can be found either out in the garden or curled up with a book.