Every parent is aware that too much television is bad but did you know that children under the age of two years are NOT supposed to watch TV at all?
Well, according to experts, the first 2 years of life are considered a critical time for brain development. TV and other electronic media can get in the way of exploring, playing, and interacting with parents and others, which encourages learning and healthy physical and social development.
We need to accept that television, is a powerful force in children’s lives. In Uganda children spend several hours a day watching TV without adult supervision. Many parents are guilty of using television as a modern ‘baby-sitter’ without considering these and many other complications.
Children who watch television are not only entertained but assume, consciously or unconsciously, that they are learning more about the world they live in, who they are in that world and how they should behave. If they take their role models from “Deception” they may think that family relationships are all about violence and sex. If they take Tom and Jerry as an ideal, they may assume that violence solves problems.
Television brings murder, violence and sex right into our homes. By the time a child reaches the age of 15 in Uganda, they have witnessed over 1000 violent killings in movies and series, they have been exposed to multiple family breakdowns and various types of dysfunctions.
It is every parent’s responsibility to lobby for programmes broadcasts that do not show any bias in the way children are shown, and encourage confidence and a sense of identity in children; often the boys are portrayed as dominant, uncaring and violent while the girls must be slim and pretty like Barbie.
What are the complications?
A 2014 study revealed that watching too much television can change the structure of a child’s brain in a damaging way. Researchers found that the more time a child spent viewing TV, the more profound the brain alterations appeared to be.
The Japanese study looked at 276 children aged between five and 18, who watched between zero and four hours TV per day, with the average being about two hours.
MRI brain scans showed children who spent the most hours in front of the box had greater amounts of grey matter in regions around the frontopolar cortex – the area at the front of the frontal lobe which is linked to lower verbal intelligence. They suggested grey matter could be compared to body weight and said these brain areas need to be pruned during childhood in order to operate efficiently. In conclusion, TV viewing is directly or indirectly associated with the neurocognitive development of children.
Children who consistently spend more than 4 hours per day watching TV are more likely to be overweight.
Kids who view violent acts on TV are more likely to show aggressive behavior, and to fear that the world is scary and that something bad will happen to them.
TV characters often depict risky behaviors, such as smoking and drinking, and also reinforce gender-role and racial stereotypes.
What to do
Preview the programs before the kids watch them and record the ones you feel are suitable for them don’t forget to remove commercial which are often adult in nature.
Provide alternative source of entertainment like books and games to encourage kids to do something other than watch TV.
Keep TVs and internet connections out of bedrooms.
Turn the TV off during meals.
Don’t allow kids to watch TV while doing homework or better yet ban TV throughout the week.
TV isn’t a right therefore it should be treated as a privilege to be earned. For example it should be a reward for punctuality or chores/ homework well done.
Set a good example by limiting your own TV viewing.