More than four hours a day...Thats how much television your children are watching on average. However, research has proven time and again that too much television harms our children's ability to read and perform well in school, encourages violence and promotes sedentary lifestyles and obesity.
For more than 20 years, research has shown that children who spend many hours with television each day are less likely to get good grades. Even though most educators know this, most parents do not. Research has identified why excessive television watching contributes to learning difficulties. Too much television:
Telling fact from fiction. Young children have unique problems concerning television because they can't figure out what is real and what isn't. Since children are visual learners, they absorb both the positive and negative behaviors they see. If a child views violent television, they accept violence as normal.
Some studied even go so far as to suggest that children who regularly watch violence on television:
Television conditions a child to dual stimuli: sound and images. The persistence of television sound and rapidly-changing images can condition a child to expect that level of stimulation in other circumstances, notably school. But there, a child will be called upon to speak, to listen to a teacher, work some problems, or read, none of which contain the attention-grabbing effect of television.
Watching television inhibits the growth of longer attention spans. As with conditioning a child to the sound and images of television, the approximately seven minute length of program before a commercial interruption can condition a child to a seven minute attention span.
Watching television Interferes with the development of reading skills. A child must learn to move the eyes back and forth across the page in order to read. But with television, the eyes fix on the screen. One hour a day in school learning to move the eyes back and forth cannot compete with four or more hours with the eyes fixed on a television screen. Its little wonder that many children find difficulty learning to read.
Watching television decreases the time for developing speaking skills. Children may hear new words on a television show, but this is not the same as speaking. If they are watching television, they aren't spending time talking. Children generally start to talk by speaking single words, then progress to short sentences, then to groups of sentences. Reading to a child, and speaking to a child directly, aid the development of speaking skills. A child rarely develops proficiency with speech simply by getting older. A child spending four or more hours a day watching television loses the time needed for conversation, and may well find difficulty becoming articulate and fluent, and be less able to speak and write in complete sentences.
What can you do?
As a parent, there are many ways you can help your child develop positive viewing habits. The following tips may help:
A Quick Word about Cinema
Many parents seem to think that theres nothing wrong with taking their young children to the movie and it is not unusual to find children under the age of 10 happily munching away on popcorn while their parents enjoy the latest blockbuster (PG rating 16).
Not only is it inadvisable to take young children anywhere after 9pm (see Children & Sleep) most movies reach a noise level that can be potentially damaging to adult) let alone children's) ears. According to the New York Times News Service, parts of the film Godzilla reached 115 decibels. It is a fact that a sustained level of 85 decibels or more for a period of 8 hours can irreversibly damage hearing and that it is recommended that a decibel level of over 100 should not be endured for longer than 1 and a half minutes!Additionally, the majority of films are not suitable for children under the age of 12.