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Television and the family

Jinny Hopp, Human Environmental Sciences specialist in Jasper County, University of Missouri Extension


Family is the most important influence in a child's life, but television is not far behind. Depending on how it is used, television can have positive or negative effects on children. On the positive side, television can be informative, entertaining and educational. However, studies have shown that heavy viewing is associated with less physical activity and viewing violent content may lead to more aggressive behavior. By knowing how television affects your children and by setting limits, you can help make your child's TV-watching experience not only enjoyable, but healthy too. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises us to consider the following:


  • Children in the US watch about 4 hours of TV every day. Movies and video games add screen time. The screen keeps your child busy, but playing, reading and spending time with friends and family are much healthier for children.

  • Children who watch too much television are more likely to be overweight. They do not get the exercise they need. Commercials for junk foods and drinks run during children's programs. Teach children about healthy eating and have healthy snacks available instead of junk food.

  • An average child will have seen about 8,000 murders on TV by the time he finishes grade school. Children who see violence on TV may not understand that real violence hurts and kills people. Children learn that it is okay to use force to handle aggression and settle disagreements. It is best not to let your child watch violent programs and cartoons.

  • Television exposes children to adult behaviors. Sexual activity is shown as fun, normal, exciting and without any risks. TV programs and commercials often show people who drink and smoke as healthy, energetic, sexy and successful. It is up to you to teach your child your views about alcohol, tobacco and other drug use as well as your expectations for their behavior.

  • Child TV watchers see more than 20,000 commercials each year. Commercials are quick, fast-paced and entertaining. Your child can easily remember a song, slogan or catchy phrase. Ads may try to convince your child that having a certain toy or eating a certain food will make him happy or popular. Kids need to know that ads try to convince people to buy things they may not need.

  • Television affects how your child learns. High-quality, nonviolent children's shows can have a positive effect on learning. Studies show that preschool children who watch educational TV programs do better on reading and math tests than children who do not watch those programs. When used carefully, television can be a positive tool to help your child learn.


As a parent, you can help your child develop positive viewing habits. Limit TV, movies and video and computer games to 1 or 2 hours per day. Do not combine TV and homework. Use program guides and TV ratings to help you and your child choose shows. Turn the TV on to watch the program you chose and turn it off when the program is over. Along with reading, playing and time with family, the right mix of children's television can spur curiosity, discovery and lots of fun.



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Last Updated 04/29/2013