Newest Studies Show Kids Should Stop Watching TV

If there was something that you as a parent could do to decrease your child's risk of cancer, increase their level of education, and prevent them from getting involved with sex, drugs and alcohol until an age of responsibility, would you?

Even if it meant turning off the TV?

Studies have shown that TV is linked to a wide variety of health risks, especially in young children. Yet, the number of hours watched per day by children seems to be increasing, if anything. With satellite TV, hundreds of channels, new video games, and programs offering unlimited DVD rentals, it's enticing to take advantage of the technology and be part of the "cultural" scene. But despite how easy it is to switch on the TV to make your kids sit still, this past time has little good to offer and much risk to contend with.

Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you decide it's "TV time."

TV affects brain development and functioning. According to the health Web site , when you watch TV, your brain enters alpha level, a mode where your mind is most receptive to ideas while least prepared to think critically. To quote the video, "Effective hypnosis is induced, and the viewer surrenders to the unending television image stream....Images are implanted directly into the mind without viewer participation." Of course, the conspiracy-type language should be taken with a grain of salt.

But if you think that's scary, try to imagine what young people think when watching certain shows. According to psychologists, children under seven can't distinguish between reality and fantasy, making scary-looking monsters truly terrifying. Explaining to them that the characters "aren't real" makes little difference. Similarly, children ages 8-12 are often scared by shows depicting violence, victimization of children, and weather disasters. Even though these events are unlikely to occur to them personally, children this age don't fully comprehend statistics and risk percentage.

Our adult brains, accustomed to living in the world at large, may have a hard time understanding how children think when watching TV. Another example is the impact of commercials, where studies have shown that children under 6 are unable to distinguish program content from commercials. The youngest children could be even more vulnerable, with studies suggesting that TV-watching in children under age 2 could trigger autism due to insufficient social interaction with real people.

Aric Sigman reviewed 35 studies of TV health risks , and found 15 links to different risks including ADHD, obesity, lower immunity, sleep disruptions, and short-sightedness. Kids who watch TV are also more likely to engage in smoking, drugs, and sex at earlier ages due to exposure on TV. Interestingly, one study found that people who watched more TV as children had an overall lower educational achievement by age 26.

Some risks are associated with light exposure of physically sitting near and watching the TV. Studies have shown that this exposure suppresses the production of hormones such as melatonin, which can lead to premature puberty and even increase the chance of DNA mutations, which can cause cancer.

While experts have long warned that children view TV in moderation, just exactly how much is moderate? Various assessments have found that kids watch about 4-5 hours a day on average. Sigman recommends a daily maximum depending on age: 0 hours for kids under 2, 30 minutes for ages 2-7, 1 hour for ages 8-12, 1.5 hours for kids 13-15, and 2 hours for age 16 and up.

If there's one thing that parents can do increase the overall health of their kids, it seems like cutting down on TV would be hard to beat.


Lisa Zyga
Science Blogger

Oct 21, 2007
by Tom (not verified)

Great Blog!

Great Blog!  Back in the "old days" television used to be considered a treat where you would watch one or two shows after dinner with the whole family on one big, clunky tv set without a remote control.  Now, kids get an overwhelming exposure to TV and the negative effects that go along with it.  Some of these like you mentioned are negative social interaction skills.  But they also include an increase in mal seizures which can be triggered in over-tired children who watch TV.  These mal seizures are often not detected by parents but could be thought of as similar to mini-strokes in adults.  TV induced seizures are also sometimes called the "Pokemon Effect."  One can only assume they are increasing because both over-tired children seem to be increasing at the same time television viewing is increasing.

 In addition, we are setting children up earlier than ever for bad sleep because to prevent SIDS the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) "Back To Sleep" campaign recommends children sleep on their backs (supine) yet it has been shown in scientific studies in the AAP's Journal Pediatrics (and many parents seem to agree) that infants sleep much better when they are placed on their tummies instead of their back.  But, the rate of SIDS has decreased during this time.  Unfortunately, the rate of plagiocephaly (flat head) has increased from 1 in 300 to 1 in 60 during this time (some studies say 1 in 10 now).  Several studies (including in the AAP's own journal Pediatrics) have shown also that infants placed in the supine position for sleep have increased apnea (lack of oxygen) episodes, increased arousals, less sleep duration, and both motor skills delay and developmental delay when compared to infants who sleep on their tummy.  Infants who sleep on their tummies are also better able to deal with gas.  But, SIDS has dropped by over 40% in the U.S. since this campaign began in 1992.

 The part of your blog where you mentioned the alpha waves I thought was most interesting.  There are 5 stages of sleep and the alpha waves are part of stage 1.  The first 4 stages of sleep are Non-Rapide Eye Movement (NREM) and the 5th stage of sleep is Rapid Eye Movement (REM).  The body needs to cycle through all 5 stages of sleep in order several types a night to get proper restorative sleep.  The alpah waves part of your ariticle is interesting because alpha waves are sort of the "set up" for a good nights sleep.  Therefore, if TV is interfering with alpha waves then it would definitely have a negative effect on the next 4 stages of sleep.  Very interesting blog.

Oct 21, 2007
by Phyreblade (not verified)

Great Article! And I have an additional suggestion.

I'd point out though, that I believe that there is a more direct relationship between the incidence of things like anti-social autism and obesity, and how much time the parent spends with their children.

I think that the amount of TV a child watches is a function of a parents overall child rearing attitude, and so simply cutting down on TV alone might not necessarily lower the co-incidence of these other factors like ADHD, obesity, etc. After all, there are still video games and computers, etc...

I would submit that rather than focus on the TV alone, a better approach would be a modified child rearing ethos. More time need to be spent interacting with children. In such an environment, TV use would naturally decline.

And why not put the TV to work for us. It's natural auto-suggestive effects could be used to the parents benefit. If they are careful to monitor and allow only the right kind of programs to be watched, kids could learn interesting life lessons faster. The same goes for video games and so on.

So yes, by all means, we should drastically reduce the amount of TV watched by our kids, but we also need more quality time (TV time included) as well.

Oct 22, 2007
by copycat (not verified)


To who(m)ever thinks autism can be 'triggered' or brought on by external factors, THAT IS NOT THE CASE. Autism is a GENETIC disease.

Apr 2, 2008
by Anonymous


tv has corrupted the minds of children in the u.s.. especially video games

Jan 12, 2009
by Anonymous

Kids Should Stop Watching T.V or At Least Limited It

Kids should stop watching t.v because its effecting education and the minds of some of these kids and do you even see the kids these days, they are so disrespectful and most of them think they are cool