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The pros and cons of television viewing for children


Rebecca Gants
Senior Information Specialist, West Central Region
University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group
Phone: 816-812-2534

Published: Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Story source:

Nina Chen, 816-252-5051

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. – Research has linked excessive television-watching by children to poor school performance, behavior problems and obesity, said a University of Missouri Extension human development specialist.

“Four-year-old children who watched TV in a child-care setting scored lower on measures of applied problem solving, language comprehension and expressive vocabulary,” said Nina Chen. “These children also don’t get as much physical activity and don’t get exposed to new activities."

According to statistics collected by the National Institute on Media and the Family, the average American child watches three to five hours of television every day, sees up to 40,000 TV commercials every year and witnesses as many as 200,000 televised acts of violence by the age of 18. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicated that children are more likely to be obese when they watch TV four or more hours per day.

Chen said that numerous studies indicate that TV violence can lead to increased aggression in children and teens. Children may learn that violence is an acceptable way to solve problems, become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others, and inappropriately identify with certain characters, she said.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all TV viewing is bad for kids. “Some studies indicate that television viewing properly used in moderation can stimulate a child’s education and creativity,” Chen said. “Children who watched a moderate amount of TV performed better academically than children who excessively watched television and children who did not watch television.”

Chen offers a few suggestions to help parents guide their children’s television viewing:

-Put TV sets in family areas instead of in children’s rooms.

-Monitor what your children are viewing; avoid violent or sexual content.

-Watch TV with your children and discuss the programs and commercials. Ask them questions and express your thoughts and feelings. This discussion process will help children critically evaluate programs and advertisements.

-Set limits on TV viewing; for instance, no TV during meals or before children have finished homework or chores.

“Be a good role model for your children with your own TV viewing habits,” Chen said. “They model what you do more than what you say.”


For more information from MU Extension on television and the family, see