Finding good, affordable child care in today’s society is not easy for a number of reasons. Fortunate indeed are those who find dependable, competent, loving and caring people to care for the single-most important people in their lives, their children. This has to be a major concern for every parent who finds it necessary, for whatever reason, to entrust one or more of their children to someone else’s care.
While the physical harm that can be done to a young child is the most obvious concern, when considered over the long term, there is another danger that is much more serious. This is the mental harm that can be done by allowing a young child to watch television for sustained periods of time.
My suspicions were confirmed several weeks ago when I read an article by Dr. David Perlmutter titled “Television and the Developing Brain.” Dr. Perlmutter, FACN, is a board-certified neurologist and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition who received his doctorate from the University of Miami School of Medicine where he was awarded the Leonard G. Rowntree Research Award.
He says, “When children watch television, they are not engaging in other fundamentally important activities for cognitive and social development.”
To underscore this further, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Committee on Public Education recently issued a comprehensive statement regarding television and children: “More than 1,000 scientific studies and reviews conclude that significant exposure to media violence increases the risk of aggressive behavior in certain children and adolescents, desensitizes them to violence and makes them believe the world is a ‘meaner and scarier’ place than it is.”
They further indicated, “Research has shown that news reports of bombings, natural disasters, murders and other violent crimes have the potential to traumatize young children.” They also stated, “Pediatricians should urge parents to avoid television viewing for children under the age of 2 years. Although certain television programs may be promoted to this age group, research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with parents and other caregivers for healthy brain growth and development of appropriate social, emotional and cognitive skills. Therefore, exposing such young children to television programming should be discouraged.”
Along these same lines, here is something I found quite interesting. The report admonished pediatricians with respect to having television and video in their waiting rooms as this would serve as an inappropriate role model. In this report, pediatricians were told to have educational materials in their waiting rooms to promote reading and went as far as to suggest having volunteer readers available in waiting rooms as opposed to television and video equipment. Now that’s a great idea and I hope some forward-thinking pediatricians will not only do this, but also expose and recommend this idea to their peers through their writing and presentations at state and national conferences.
Again, the other seductive aspect of television for preschoolers is on the parent’s side. That is, television is hugely convenient for parents in that it suddenly causes children to stop running around the house and being disruptive. They are essentially mesmerized by this “instant babysitter” giving parents free time.
There are many valid reasons why this should not be the case. The main thing children are not doing while watching television is physical activity. Increased television watching by preschoolers has been clearly correlated to obesity. This is one of the main reasons we have so many overweight children in our country. A decline in physical activity in preschoolers has also been correlated, in multiple studies, with a decline in academic performance.
If you are a parent or grandparent and have young children in your life, why not take action and eliminate or reduce television viewing in your home?
We see violence in the news every day and sexual predators that harm our children. From my own research, I personally believe much of this is caused by children who grow up after years of watching violence on television and playing violent video games. The experts are right. Television is a poor babysitter.
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To support literacy, buy his book: “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)