Beware! TV can make your child stupid

2010-05-18
THE PUNCH Newspaper

Can we ever stop watching television? Difficult, isn’t it? Watching television has become part of our everyday life. Rarely will an hour pass without most of us peeping into the TV. Since the 1920s when the gadget was invented, it has continued to warm itself into every household.



Well used, TV can be beneficial to all-old or young. But when misused the consequences might not be pleasant, especially for impressionable kids.



Of course, moderate TV viewing-with parental guidance, can be beneficial to a child. For instance, in addition to helping children learn about diverse subjects and explore them in details, children can acquire and develop analytical skills by discussing TV programmes. Who is the main character in the movie? Why did that happen? What will be the result? Asking such questions as you co-view with your children can help them learn to think, predict, and solve problems, writes Carey Bryson in the article, ‘TV Can Be Good for Kids,’ published on www.about.com.



Nowadays, however, TV seems to be taking over the role of parents in children‘s lives. A recent study by the A.C. Nielsen Company reveals that American parents spend approximately 3.5 minutes weekly in meaningful conversation with their children while the average child spends approximately 1,680 minutes every week watching TV. Lack of such studies in Nigeria means absence of statistics, but with 24-hour television becoming part of the Nigerian society, the situation may not be too different here.



However, while the effect of heavy exposure to TV on children is still a contentious issue among media studies scholars, more studies have kept reinforcing the argument that heavy exposure to TV affects children negatively.



In fact, experts say that if you want your kids to be smarter you just have to keep them away from the TV set when they are toddlers. A recent study by child experts from the Universite de Montreal, the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Centre, Canada and the University of Michigan, United States, found that TV exposure at an early age has negative consequences for kids, including poor school adjustment, and unhealthy habits.



According to the study, watching too much TV as toddlers means a seven per cent decrease in classroom engagement; a 10 per cent increase in victimisation by classmates; a nine per cent decrease in general physical activity; a 10 percent peak in snacks intake; and a five per cent increase in body mass index.



“Early childhood is a critical period for brain development and formation of behaviour. High levels of TV consumption during this period can lead to future unhealthy habits,” says lead researcher Linda Pagani, a psychosocial professor at the Universite de Montreal.



Similarly, an earlier study published in the November 2009 issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine notes that three-year-old children who are exposed to more TV appear to be at an increased risk for exhibiting aggressive behaviour.



After analysing data from 3,128 mothers of children born between 1998 and 2000 in 20 large United States cities, the study found that direct child TV exposure and household TV use were both significantly associated with childhood aggression, after accounting for other factors such as parent, family, neighbourhood and demographic characteristics.



The study concludes that “early childhood aggression can be problematic for parents, teachers and childhood peers and sometimes is predictive of more serious behaviour problems to come, such as juvenile delinquency, adulthood violence and criminal behaviour.”



So how can children be saved from the unpleasant consequences of heavy exposure to the media? Mrs. Joy Ekeh, an early childhood education expert, says parental guidance is the way out. “You just have to monitor and control what your children watch,” says Ekeh who runs a nursery and primary school in Lagos. “Drawing a TV viewing timetable for your kids, choosing the programmes they watch withins the period and ensuring that the rules are followed strictly can save them from such negative consequences.”





 

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