Child experts believe watching TV is not good for your child’s development. Why? Learn more about it the good and bad effects of television on child development
Effects of television on child development
Effects of television on child development | Image from Shutterstock
Are you guilty of letting your baby watch TV sometimes? You’re not alone, Mama. It’s a common mistake parent make.
We may have resorted to letting our child do this because we need to finish some chores, we’re busy with work, or we just need a quick break.
So, if you let your child watch TV before, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent.
But of course, we also want to ensure that our child’s brain and health don’t suffer because of our mistakes. And we want to nurture their physical and cognitive development as much as we can, right?
And according to numerous studies and child experts, watching TV negatively affects your child’s brain and overall well-being. How? Let’s take a look at the good and bad effects of television.
What effects can watching TV have on a child’s brain?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), through Healthy Children.org, said that screen viewing before 18 months can lead to long-term negative effects on children’s brains. Particularly in language development, reading skills, and short-term memory. It can also contribute to problems with sleep and attention.
A study from the National Institutes of Health found that children who watch TV or have excessive screen time experience thinning of the brain cortex. It is the part of the brain responsible for critical thinking and reasoning.
Meanwhile, in 2019, CNN reported a study that found that children who watched TV or used screens more than the recommended one hour a day without parental involvement showed lower levels of development in the brain’s white matter – an area key to the development of language, literacy, and cognitive skills.
This was revealed through a series of brain scans in children 3 to 5 using a special type of MRI. It is called diffusion tensor imaging to examine the brains of 47 brain-healthy children (27 girls and 20 boys) who hadn’t started school yet.
The study showed that there was slow progress and underdevelopment in the white matter of the brain. Which was responsible for executive function, language, and literacy.
Dr. John Hutton, the lead author of the study and a pediatrician and clinical researcher at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, was the first study to document associations between higher screen use and lower measures of brain structure and skills in preschool-aged kids.
Effects of television on babies: Do screen time alone damage brain activity?
However, the researchers clarified that while the results of the brain scan were fascinating and agree with previous theories made about the topic, it doesn’t actually specify that it’s the act of watching TV that does the damage. Instead, what may be occurring is that screen time is too passive that it does not nurture brain activity and development.
“It’s not that the screen time damaged the white matter,” said Hutton.
“Perhaps screen time got in the way of other experiences that could have helped the children reinforce these brain networks more strongly,” he added.
What does this mean? This suggests that while watching TV alone doesn’t damage your child’s brain, it can cause their brain development to become delayed when they miss out on actual human interaction, which is vital in helping their developing brains create connections.
Good and bad effects of television: What positive effects do watching TV have on babies and kids?
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Children who watch children’s entertainment shows learn various skills, such as coping with emotional trauma, socializing with peers, navigating difficult situations, and developing their imaginations through interactive activities and mental processes.
Through instructional media, children are encouraged to act and display positive behaviors. If your child dislikes traditional teaching methods, educational programs could be a great way to get him to learn while having fun.
One of the effects of television on child development is that they are introduced to the world’s wonders through travel and cultural events. Your child’s social skills and development will increase due to learning about other cultures, encouraging holistic thinking, and friendly relationships with international peers.
Watching art shows and channels that involve music composition, drawing, and painting stimulates children’s minds and inspires them to be creative and pursue art.
TV characters can influence how children behave in real life. Children would want to replicate their favorite TV characters’ traits in real life. Just make sure that these characters are of good morals and conduct!
Other effects of watching television on child development
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Although TV can have good effects on child development. There can be more negative effects of television on babies. It’s not just your child’s brain that is affected by this habit of watching TV or excessive screen time. If you need some more reasons to cut this habit, you will find what are the negative effects of television:
- It is linked to obesity or having an unhealthy weight
Effects of television on babies include unhealthy weight. It has been found that kids who watch TV or use gadgets excessively are more likely to be overweight. This can be because it promotes a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits (even for us grownups, we like to eat junk food while propped up in front of the TV).
According to studies, lessening the amount of screen time and watching TV resulted in less weight gain and lower body mass index (BMI).
- It promotes aggressive behavior
Children’s minds are like sponges. They learn from whatever they’re exposed to. So you’re wrong if you’re watching a violent show on TV that it won’t affect your child’s behavior. Research showed that early childhood exposure to TV violence increases aggression later in adulthood.
- It creates sleep problems
Sleep problems are one of the effects of watching tv on babies. A previous study also revealed that children who regularly watch TV before bedtime, especially those who watch violent TV shows, were more likely to have sleep problems. These include awakening during the night, nightmares, struggling to fall asleep, and suffering from sleepiness during the day.
Learn more about the negative effects of watching TV on babies and excessive screen time here.
Watching TV with a newborn in the room – what are the negative effects of television?
Babies and TV exposure is a tricky topic to navigate. For instance, is it okay to have a TV in the background while watching over your child?
Sometimes, people like to turn on the TV as background noise while doing chores or caring for their baby. However, this actually makes it even more difficult for babies to learn. Since the noise can distract them from learning new words and from observing how the people around them interact with each other.
It also makes it hard for babies to concentrate since turning the TV on can mess up their attention span and make them easily lose focus when playing with a toy. Having a short attention span isn’t good for your child since they’ll have difficulty focusing when they start studying.
Is watching TV better than using gadgets?
When it comes to screen time and our children’s development, is watching TV better than letting them use gadgets like mobile phones or tablets?
“Television isn’t as bad as it was once perceived to be as it can be controlled more easily and stays in one place,” said Dr. Jennifer Cross, a developmental and behavioral pediatrics expert at NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital.
Of course, this is only compared to other gadgets a child can bring anywhere and are usually accessed in close proximity. Moreover, it’s easier to impose and implement rules on the TV other than gadgets because kids don’t have access to the TV all the time.
So regardless if it’s the TV or mobile gadgets, parents should still be wary of letting their child have excessive screen time. Instead, they should teach and model healthy habits regarding watching TV or using gadgets.
What should parents do with the effects of television on child development?
Where to begin? Can babies watch TV at 4 months? Well, for starters, let’s look at AAP’s guidelines for screen and media use on children and try to implement them at home:
- Babies and toddlers (newborns to 18 months) – Can babies watch TV at 4 months? No screen time allowed, except supervised video chatting with family and friends. The capacity of a child to read, speak, and retain short-term memory may be negatively impacted for the rest of their lives if they use screens before the age of 18 months. Additionally, it makes problems with attention and sleep worse.
- Toddlers (18 to 24 months) – Some supervised screen time with a parent or caregiver.
- Preschoolers – maximum of 1 hour a day of educational programming, supervised by a parent or caregiver who can help them understand what they’re seeing.
- Kids ages 5 to 12 – Screen time for TV, social media, and video games need limits. Make sure that media does not interrupt having adequate sleep and physical activity.
- 12 years and up – Make sure healthy screen habits are observed. Designate media-free time such as meal times and gadget-free locations such as at the dining table or the bedroom. Also, have gadget-free days and outdoor recreation as a family.
Aside from following what was stated above, what parents need to do would be to focus on face-to-face interaction and make an active effort to connect with their children. It’s important for their baby to see how people interact and talk with each other so that babies can easily learn from adults.
Talking to your child constantly can help them develop connections in their brain which can help stimulate their development. Playing games and encouraging your child to be creative also helps them grow and learn faster.
It’s important for parents to create an environment conducive to their kids’ growth and development since a good environment is one of the most important things parents can do for their babies.
Effects of television on babies: Alternatives to watching television
Children ages 2 and older should limit their daily television viewing to no more than one to two hours. Children ages 0–2 should not watch any television at all. However, limiting or prohibiting television could be challenging, especially if you have young children.
- Take a nature trip and let your children experience the wind, sun, and trees, and meet animals they’ve never seen before.
- Build a fort inside your home and even in your backyard. Fill it up with stuffed animals or comfy blankets.
- Read or listen to books.
- Sing and dance to nursery rhymes.
- Get messy with paint! Bring out art materials and paint on paper (or in your garage!)
- Fill up a pool with balls and create your very own ballpit!
- Take them to the nearby park. They can also play with other children their age.
- Build a maze inside the house with old boxes and karton.
- Blow bubbles or play catch.
- Visit the petshop and let them choose a pet that they’re ready to take care of.
Updates from Margaux Dolores