Children and TV – The Health Risk You Need to Know

Feb 06, 2024

Children and TVWe live in an electronic age where being able to use electronic media and communication devices plays an important part in everyday life. Medical science has clearly shown that online addiction can have very serious negative consequences on both physical and mental health. What many parents do not fully appreciate is the way excessive exposure to TV can harm children. Many presume that if their children are doing well in school and are playing with friends, there is nothing to worry. That is wrong. While both TV and internet access can be dangerous for children, the problems they pose need to be tackled differently. In this article, we will look at the risks of excessive TV exposure for children.

TV – A Blessing and a Curse

TV is a ubiquitous presence in almost every home. Many homes now boast of multiple sets to overcome competing demands for viewing access. TV can be a blessing because it is a medium for inexpensive and convenient entertainment and in some cases, for the dissemination of knowledge. However, because it is a constant presence in the home, the temptation for children to turn on the set and turn off their minds is strong. There are 2 aspects to TV exposure:

  • It is easy to sit in front of the set and watch whatever is being shown, irrespective of how much it interests the viewer or even how much the viewer understands. The viewer’s mind can sink into a trance-like state where hours can pass without the viewer being aware. This is more likely in the case of children.
  • Today, OTT platforms are overtaking the old broadcast channels. Broadcast channels are more strictly controlled than OTT platforms and there are restrictions on what can be shown. There are few such controls on OTT platforms and access to sex, violence and other inappropriate matter is just a click of the remote away.

Besides the type of content that children may be exposed to, the basic fact that they spend hours staring at the screen can cause a variety of physical and psychological problems.

Also Read: Boosting Your Child’s Natural Ability to Fight Sickness

The Dangers

Among the many common problems that are linked to excessive TV viewing in children are:

  • Obesity: Sitting in a chair or sofa for long periods of time watching TV is one of the most common reasons for weight gain. Children are naturally active and when they are in front of the TV, the urge to be active disappears. This leads to an inability to burn enough calories which in turn results in weight gain and then obesity. Additionally, TV advertising promotes the consumption of junk and otherwise unhealthy foods. Children, who are unable to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy eating are easily tempted by the advertisements on TV and their intake of junk food increases.
  • Behavioural Problems: TV can, often inadvertently, glamourize the use of drugs, tobacco and alcohol. It can also make violence look like a solution to problems. And exposure to sex and other activities inappropriate for children can tempt them into trying these activities for themselves. The consequence of this will, in most cases, lead to all kinds of behavioural problems and negative attitudes.
  • Impaired Academic Performance: Even if a child’s grades do not appear to be affected by TV viewing, studies show that on an average, children who have unsupervised TV viewing tend to perform worse academically than those whose viewing is controlled. A child with good grades may be able to get even better ones with controlled TV viewing.
  • Insomnia: The more time spent watching TV, the more likely children are to have trouble falling asleep (or having restful sleep). Inadequate sleep leads to loss of energy, mental focus and overeating.
  • Desensitization to Violence: Exposure to violence on TV can cause children to think that this behaviour is normal and may cause them to act in a violent manner.
  • Depression and Anxiety: The accumulated negative effects of excessive TV viewing and the resulting behavioural changes can cause a child to feel isolated and detached from others. This leads to depression and anxiety which adds to the other negative impacts of excessive TV viewing and this becomes a vicious cycle where the child spirals into increasingly serious physical and mental ailments.

Also Read: Paediatric Care – Choosing the Right Hospital

It is not possible to cut children off from TV completely. It is unwise to even try. Just like adults, they need entertainment and relaxation and appropriate TV programmes provide this. There is also the question of peer pressure. When other children are talking about what they see on TV, a child who does not have any viewing access can feel left out and isolated. A feeling of being unfairly treated in comparison to other children can lead to rebellion and a refusal to accept parental authority. The importance of finding a balance between allowing a child to watch the right kind of TV programmes for the right amount of time cannot be stressed enough. There are no set rules on this subject, but if parents monitor their children’s TV viewing and impose reasonable restrictions, the right balance can usually be achieved.

If your child is showing signs of behavioural or physical problems that are (or maybe) the result of excessive TV watching, professional help to get the child back on track is often the best course of action. Consult the psychiatry department of a multispecialty hospital where there will be highly qualified professionals available to help your child find the right equilibrium and escape from the negative effects of excessive TV viewing. A multispecialty hospital is the best place to go to because besides expert psychiatrists, other services and treatments will also be available if they are needed and this is better for both the parents and the children in terms of comfort, convenience and effective recovery.

The earlier mental and physical problems caused by excessive TV viewing are diagnosed and treated, the quicker the return to a balanced lifestyle that forms the foundation of growing into a positive and productive adult.

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