Too Much TV? Effects of TV on Young Children

by Baylor Scott & White Staff on March 5, 2015

in Parenting

164022347Our world is dominated by screens everywhere we turn. With the introduction of smart phones, tablets and TVs now in many households, young children are being exposed to programs at an increasing rate.

To clarify and illustrate the effects TV has on young children, pediatrician Bradley Berg, MD, PhD, FAAP, FACPE of McLane Children’s Scott & White is here to help.

“Children learn by doing and simply watching things on TV does not stimulate their development as well as experiential learning,” summarizes Dr. Berg.

Harmful Effects of TV on Young Children

When it comes to watching TV, it can seem almost harmless. You grab the remote to turn a program on for your child, but the effects can be far reaching if this is repeated day after day.

Dr. Berg says:

  • Young children who watch more than two hours of screen time a day tend to do worse in school when they enter.
  • They also have more attention issues in school.
  • They also have a harder time being by themselves and entertaining themselves as they grow.

When children are young, it is a valuable time to help them develop their brain processes. As a parent or caregiver, you can introduce sensory learning, problem solving and cause-and-effect play. These activities will help your child succeed in school, much more than any TV program.

When You Need a Break

Many parents use electronics as a babysitter or just a way to get a break. If you’re looking for an alternative to turning on the TV or handing over the iPad, consider something that helps aid experiential learning.

“Set the child up with a pile of blocks or coloring pad with crayons and let them occupy themselves,” says Dr. Berg. “This teaches self-reliance as well as creativity.”

It may take some practice before your child can fully occupy himself or herself. However, as you remain consistent this can be some valuable quiet moments for your child and give you a break at the same time.

Controlling Content

Another element of TV is controlling the content that is introduced to your children.

“Even if you have an ‘educational’ show on, children are exposed to a lot of advertising which skews their perceptions and creates ‘desire’ for those objects being advertised,” says Dr. Berg.

He goes on to explain that these commercials or advertisements can lead to a more materialistic viewpoint as they get older and always wanting the next best gadget.

“I really try to get the parents to understand the impact of watching too much TV and screen time on their schooling when they are older,” says Dr. Berg. “We are also seeing children becoming more lacking in interpersonal skills between peers.”

The habits you form as your children are young in your home can carry over as they grow. As children, especially teens interact more and more by email and text, Dr. Berg says they become awkward or unable to interact dealing with live people and friends.

“This can lead to isolation and difficulty in advanced schooling and the workplace,” says Dr. Berg.

Educational Programs?

While it may be true that some programs are better than others, Dr. Berg says that studies have shown differently. He says the studies suggest that all screen time interferes with children and their learning.

“Again, they are experiential learners and need to stack the blocks, flip the pages, not just swipe a screen,” says Dr. Berg.

Video games have been shown to improve reaction times and, children can learn from educational shows, especially as they get into the Pre-K and up ages.

“There can be a use for TV and other program as the child matures,” says Dr. Berg. “However it is important to remember that it is an adjunct to learning from books and interactions with friends, not a replacement.”

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