Television is a daily presence in the lives of most young children, and video games on consoles and computers are also widely used by children. But how does exposure to television, computers, electronic games and other such media affect children`s health and development`
What are the dangers of television and electronic media for young children`
Television and electronic games can have a negative effect on children`s physical and emotional health, social development, academic skills and behavior. Below are some of the suspected negative effects of electronic media on children.
Poor nutrition and obesity.`Children need time for active play and exercise. Daily vigorous play helps them to develop muscles and to maintain cardiovascular fitness. However, viewing television and playing games on electronic consoles or computers are sedentary ways to pass time and provide no physical benefits. Additionally, children who view television are vulnerable targets of advertisements for food products of poor nutritional value. Children who spend extensive amounts of time watching television programs are at increased risk for overweight and obesity in childhood and also later in life.
Television and electronic media displace social interaction. Time spent watching television or playing a computer game is time not spent engaged in a creative activity or interacting with other people.
Violence and aggressive`behavior.`Many television programs and electronic games feature situations of violence and destruction. Research studies have shown that children exposed to violent images are initially frightened and traumatized. With repeated exposure, they can become desensitized to the real effects of violence. Children exposed in this way may act aggressively, with no sense of consequences.
School readiness.`A recent study showed that exposure to general television programming in early childhood is associated with inferior academic skills at school age.
Attention problems.`Another recent study tracked a group of children across time. The researcher found that exposure to television at a very young age is associated with attention problems later on.
What can we do` Below are several tips for protecting children from the adverse effects of electronic media.
- Television and electronic media are inappropriate for children from birth to 24 months, under any circumstances. Educate parents not to use television to entertain or educate these youngest and most vulnerable children. Infants and toddlers need frequent human interaction for social, emotional and cognitive development.
- Child care settings should consider a television-free policy for children of all ages, particularly if the children are being exposed to electronic media at home.
- For children age 2 years and over, parents should limit television viewing to educational programs designed for children. In child care settings where there is some television present, children should be exposed to it only for short periods of time.
- Don`t leave young children alone with television or electronic games on. Stay with them to monitor the content of the media and their reactions.
- Answer any questions they have about what they are seeing. Television and other electronic media should not be used as a `baby sitter` of young children.
- Teach children to be critical viewers of commercial messages.
- Evaluate the nutritional value of foods promoted on television, and offer children healthy alternatives.