It's almost universally accepted that watching TV  does have an
influence on a children's behavior . The exact nature of this
influence is seen differently, but most research agrees that too much
TV -- and consequently, a lack of other activities -- will have
negative impact on reading skills and comprehension.
Here's what the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has
to say on the subject:
Children and Watching TV (Facts for Families #54)
American children "watch an average of three to four hours of
television a day. (...) Time spent watching television takes away from
important activities such as reading, school work, playing, exercise,
family interaction, and social development. Children also learn
information from television that may be inappropriate or incorrect."
The article goes on to point out that children who watch a lot of TV
are likely to have lower grades, read less, exercise less, and be
overweight. It also argues that race and gender stereotypes may be
enforced. The article concludes that a parent should "aid" the child's
TV watching in the sense of discussing what has happened, and
providing a help to find additional, non-TV resources.
TV Harmful (by Joe Camp)
"According to Jane Healy, PhD, it is well documented that heavy
television watching has strong negative effects on the reading skills
needed for high-level comprehension. It is not the content so much as
the experience itself, and the experiences missed while watching, that
pose serious dangers to the actual physiological development of a
child's brain. Studies show that there is a direct inverse
relationship between viewing time and performance on tests of language
development: the children who viewed more television demonstrated
lower language levels, regardless of the content watched. And it's a
given that language skills left undeveloped, or under-developed, can't
help but affect a child's ability to learn in later life because our
entire system of education is based upon using language skills to
learn other things."
Above page quotes heavily from the book Endangered Minds by Jane Healy
According to the resource, television:
- harms brain development (strength and efficiency of synaptic
- creates passive learners who give up easily,
- keeps children from reading,
- creates difficulty in studying and linking together the concepts
presented in science and social studies texts.
And paradoxically, "children in one study whose parents encouraged
them to watch Sesame Street had the lowest overall vocabulary scores".
The following article brings up a counter-argument on this,
The Effects of Media Violence on Children (By Dr. Jane Ledingham for
The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence)
"But television is not always a negative influence. There is strong
evidence that children's shows that were developed to teach academic
and social skills can help children to learn effectively. In fact,
research suggests that the positive effects of educational children's
shows probably outweigh the negative effects of exposure to TV
Let's see what the Center for Research on the Effects of Television
has to say in the following research article:
Television in the Lives of Children (by Cyndy Scheibe)
The article groups the effects into two groups. Those that affect
- due to certain TV content,
- due to the inactivity in other areas while watching TV.
Cindy Scheiby writes that a lot of negative effects, "like lower
reading scores, obesity, and poor physical fitness, seem to be due to
these indirect effects." And also, "remember, four hours of Sesame
Street is still four hours of television".
Or take the following article:
Too Much TV Can Have Negative Impact On Children (Alabama Cooperative
"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, says Dr. Ellen Abell, a family and
child development specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension
Other concerns for children include that they maintain good eyesight
and physical fitness. (...)
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."
And, this is a good read:
The Impact of Television & Video Entertainment on Student Achievement
in Reading and Writing (By Ron Kaufman)
"Basically, the students who read the best are those that spend their
non-school hours reading and writing. Households that value literacy
and push the children to read will have kids that excel in this area.
(...) In a household where literacy is not valued, but instead a
television set is made readily available, what kind of literacy
routine is the child developing?"
I hope this helps!
---- Related pages:
Centre for the Study of Children, Youth and Media - Children's Media
Culture: Education, Entertainment and the Public Sphere (by Hannah
Davies, David Buckingham and Peter Kelley)
Childrens Understanding of What is "Real" on Television (by Daniel
Mediastudy.com - Critical Media Studies Resources (by Dr. Michael I.
Media Education Foundation
---- Related books:
The Psychology of Television (by John C. Condry) - Amazon.com
Television and the American Child (by George Comstock, Haejung Paik) -
Constructing the Child Viewer: A History of the American Discourse on
Television and Children, 1950-1980 (by Carmen Luke) - Amazon.com
Endangered Minds (by Jane M. Healy) - Amazon.com
 I think one needs to differentiate "watching TV":
1 - What is the child watching
2 - Who aids and supports the child during TV watching
3 - How long is the child watching
1. The media cannot be trusted to always provide TV programming in the
best interest of the children's education, as there is big money
involved. Take the following resource:
Center for Media Education - Why a Children's Television Act?
"But educational and informational programming had become an extinct
species on commercial broadcast TV by the end of the 1980s. (...)
Children's programming is big business and getting bigger everyday.
According to Business Week, children under 14 now spend $20 billion of
their own money and influence the spending of another $200 billion."
2. A parent that will discuss what has been seen and sets limits on TV
time and content is a good aid.
As an example; a mother could point her child to a book of a movie
that was on TV. She could point out that this Disney movie is based on
a much older fairy-tale. This would certainly be an inspirational
bridge into other media.
3. Certainly, long hours of watching TV must mean less exercise, that
is, physical activity. However, same can be said of e.g.; reading
books, doing homework.
 Even children as young as 12 month are influenced by television,
according to the following study by Mumme and Fernald:
ScienceDaily News Release: Tufts University Research Shows TV Carries
Messages That Influence Infants' Behavior
 Endangered Minds (by Jane M. Healy) - Amazon.com
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