Too much TV can have a negative impact

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 1, 2001

Children love watching television and movies, but too much of it during developmental years can have a significant negative impact on them, experts say.

Health providers and teachers across the country are reporting faltering academic abilities, attention problems, and language difficulties with both reading comprehension and oral expression. Research suggests a strong link between many of the growing problems and excessive use of television.

Children watch so much television today. They also play video games, watch movies and use computers much more than children did a few years ago. As children do this, they tend to lessen other important activities that aid in development of reading, social, and some types of thinking skills. Other concerns for children include that they maintain good eyesight and physical fitness. Studies show that long periods of television may hamper development of the pre-frontal cortex n the area of the brain responsible for planning, organizing and sequencing behavior for self-contro, moral judgement and attention.

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Some researchers believe this may be one explanation of the widespread problem of attention deficit disorder and some behavior problems. While some children have always been more prone than others to attention problems, cases have increased, and studies link the increase to the concurrent rise in television watching in the day-to-day activities of children.

The visual nature of television or other media stimuli do not develop the part of the brain responsible for language. Children who watch too much television and do not read enough may have trouble paying attention and listening to comprehend language.

It's important that parents take time to read out loud to their children and help them develop their own reading and comprehension skills. Parents should make plans with their children for weekly television viewing. Select shows that you will allow children to watch instead of leaving the television on all the time.

Children who have televisions and/or computers in their rooms tend to watch more programs and play on the computer with less supervision. Adults should be available to watch with their children to ensure they view appropriate programs. Emphasize that homework comes first and that it requires a student's full attention, without the distraction of television.

With a little planning, parents can protect children from the negative effects of television and other media. Keep common sense in mind.

If children watch television or are on the computer all the time, then they will not get the three to four hours of vigorous activity and play time needed for healthy development, and they will not read and converse with their parents enough to develop important social skills.