Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

Printer Friendly Version

Title: Children's - Adolescents and Television

Category: Positive Parenting


     This month the American Academy of Pediatrics came out with  a policy statement summing up many of the dangers of television  abuse by children and adolescents.  This has been a concern of  the American Academy of Pediatrics for many years and an ongoing  study since 1984 is confirming many of the earlier suspicions of  TV's influence on early sexual activity, drug and alcohol abuse,  poor school performance and obesity.  The average child in  America between the age of two and five watches 25 hours of TV  per week.  Between age six and eleven, they watch 22 hours per  week. Between age twelve and seventeen they watch 23 hours per  week.  This does not include VCR watching which is probably  several more hours per week.   The bottom line is that the TV  abuse and over-watching which was the concern of the American  Academy of Pediatrics in the early 80's is still rampant today. 

     TV's influence on children is both a function of what they  watch and how much they watch.  The studies show that they watch  way too many hours and the quality of viewing is shown now to  correlate with many bad influences on our children.  As an  example American teenagers see approximately 14,000 sexual  references and suggestions of promiscuity on TV and only 150 of  these references show sexual responsibility, or abstinence or  contraception.  There are also many references to alcohol consumption as well as a tremendous amount of ads for alcohol,  particularly beer. 

     The American Academy of Pediatrics would certainly like to  see more attention on responsibility of alcohol intake and more  emphasis about the dangers of alcohol abuse, particularly in  children and adolescents. 

     Some of the recommendations which the American Academy is  presently pushing include: 

1. Getting pediatricians and parents  to watch TV with their children and to be better informed of what  their children are watching. 

2. Parents should limit their  children's television watching time and a recommendation would be one to two  hours per day.  I personally think one hour per day is plenty, on  week days.  Parents are urged to support legislation for higher  quality children's programming and less toy based programs which  are primarily on the air to sell toys. 

3. Parents and  pediatricians should continue to urge the media to be responsible  in its portrayal of healthy sexuality. 

4.  Pediatricians and  parents should support pressure on the media for less alcohol  advertizing. 

5.  Pediatrics must continue to support ongoing research into the effects of television on children and to work  with other groups to monitor and improve the quality of  television programming.