In American society, watching television has become a popular pastime of millions of children. In some homes, the television has become a babysitter of sorts, keeping children occupied while their busy parents complete daily tasks. However, these parents would do well to keep their children’s television watching to a minimum because it has been known to cause damaging effects. Although children derive pleasure from watching their favorite cartoon character engage in silly behavior, the effects television can have on children are far from funny. Parents may think allowing children to watch their favorite shows is harmless, but this can lead to shorter attention spans and lower grades in school. In order to understand how watching television can interfere with the developing mind of a child, one must first define too much television. It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that parents not allow their children over three years old to view television more than two hours per day and that it should be educational in content. Children under three years old should not watch television whether it is educational or not. According to Swing (2010), “There isn’t an exact number when screen time contributes to attention problems, but the AAP recommendation of no more than two hours a day provides a good reference point.” When children sit staring at the television, it takes away time for constructive activities such as playing, reading, thinking, or using their imaginations.
While children sit staring at the screen, it doesn’t require them to do more than that which can cause a problem when they are learning to read. Children who watch more than two hours of television a day have been conditioned to hold their eyes steady, rather than move them back and forth as they will need to do when reading. It will take longer for these children to learn how to read than those who have been read to by parents or caregivers. Children who have been consistently read to are already conditioned to move their eyes back and forth as they follow the finger of the reader. If a child spends five hours per day watching television, but two hours in school learning to read, it will be difficult for them to focus on reading. While it is not impossible for them to learn to read, their excessive television watching will create some obstacles.
Aside from staring at the screen, television does not require children to respond to the dialogue. Although they are listening to people speak on television, children also need to speak in order to further develop their social skills. There is no point at which a child will suddenly fully have developed social skills. In fact, it takes years of practice in which children listen and respond to others to hone these vital skills.
After a few years of stimulation by sound and image through excessive television watching, these children enter school with unrealistic expectations. Of course, it is not their faults because they have been used to watching awesome images and hearing impressive sounds. When they get to school and find one man or woman commanding the attention of twenty or thirty students without these stimuli, it can be overwhelming for them. Although they sat still for so many hours, staring a television screen, they find it difficult to sit quietly and listen to their teacher’s instructions. They find nothing fun or interesting about a person with no visual or sound effects (Christakis, 2010). While many of their classmates can transition to this new setting with little or no difficulties, these children will squirm around and try to find ways to entertain themselves.
It is this self-entertainment that causes problems for themselves, their classmates, and teachers because it is distracting. They will first attempt to get out of their seats in search of something more stimulating. The teacher will undoubtedly have to address…