A new study confirms what I’ve been saying for years – children who have a TV in their bedroom are less likely to be highly healthy or have healthy habits.
This study followed 781 teens and reported on their television viewing patterns, study habits and grades, diet and exercise, and interaction with their family.
Compared to those teens with no TV in the bedroom, the 2/3’s of teens that did watched TV four to five hours more per week.
Girls with a bedroom TV were less likely to exercise, eat fresh vegetables, or eat meals with their family.
Boys with bedroom TVs ate less fruit, had fewer meals with their family, and had a lower grade point average.
The teens with TV in their bedrooms ate more fast food, drank more sweetened beverages, and concentrated less on school work than teens who did not have a TV in their bedroom.
These researchers suggest, as I do, that keeping a TV out of the bedroom may help stop teens from developing bad habits and cut down on TV viewing.
Here’s an excerpt from my book, God’s Design for The Highly Healthy Child, on the topic:
Television: Too Influential to Ignore
Television watching is a huge part of everyday life in America.
More than 99 percent of U.S. households have at least one television set, and only 13 percent of them report having only one television. More than half of parents report that their children have televisions in their bedrooms. In addition, 42 percent of children ages nine to seventeen have their own cable or satellite television hookups in their bedrooms.
I’m positively shocked by these statistics!
Furthermore, the idea of mom or dad watching television with the children is apparently no longer the norm. Many parents allow their children to watch any programs they want.
Considering the explicit sex, violence, nudity, and profanity in many programs, this revelation disturbs me.
A study of 450 sixth graders who watch cable TV confirmed my concerns: 66 percent of them watched at least one program a month that contained nudity or heavy sexual content.
During the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, television shows were, for the most part, entertaining and positive. But today’s most popular shows are likely to include blatant sexual promiscuity, profanity, coarse joking, glaring anti-family subplots, extremely graphic violence, and self-indulgent materialism. Now more than ever, discretion in watching television is essential.
To allow our children to watch whatever they want whenever they want to watch it is almost like inviting a complete stranger who doesn’t share our morals and values to take care of and teach them. When we place our children in front of the television, we’re placing them into the hands of complete strangers—actors, producers, scriptwriters—and that’s increasingly risky.
Television has altered the way most children in the United States spend their time. Children in previous eras spent time reading, playing games, and exploring the outdoor world. Today’s children spend hours each week with eyes glued to television screens and with bottoms firmly planted on living room rugs or sofas.
According to literacy professor Kate Moody, they spend more time with TV than they spend talking to parents, playing with peers, attending school, or reading books—usurping family time, play time, and the reading time that could promote language development.
Many children spend more time with television than they do with any other form of entertainment. A recent Media in the Home survey shows the average child in the United States spends about twenty-five hours a week in front of the television set (including the use of a VCR).
Contrast this statistic with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that children watch no more than one to two hours of “quality” television a day and that children under age two not watch television at all.
Although most parents believe that television is the primary pipeline into their homes for negative social messages (and 90 percent believe it’s getting worse), fewer than one in four parents (22 percent) say they’ve seriously considered getting rid of the television, and the majority of parents still believe television can be beneficial.
Many parents believe television is fine in moderation if the right shows are watched, but here’s the rub: Many parents are addicted to television themselves.
What Does Television Really Do to Our Children?
In their book How to Get the Best Out of TV, Dale Mason, Karen Mason, and Ken Wales have a fascinating chapter titled “Seven Shocking Reasons to Watch What Kids Watch!” Let me share with you some of the research they’ve accumulated.
Current research seems to indicate that television viewing today is associated with aggression, a desensitization to violence, and increased fear. Here are a few conclusions drawn from the massive evidence showing that too much television viewing is harming our children’s health.
Too Much Television Viewing Can Lower Creativity
Television has been accurately described as a sort of plug-in drug. It can gradually lull viewers, especially children, into noninteractive passivity.
Youngsters who should be reading, playing, running, and exploring end up exercising only their eyelids as they sit spellbound in front of the tube.
Those who have studied childhood viewing habits often conclude that children who are obsessed by TV are less creative and more passive. Evidence also points to the fact that television interferes with the capacity to entertain oneself and stifles the ability to express ideas logically and sensitively.
What’s more, as many children pattern their free play after television programs, they no longer envision new situations or new worlds—and imagination is stifled and creativity hampered.
Too Much Television Viewing Can Lead to Physical Health Concerns
There appears to be a strong relationship between the amount of time children spend in front of the television and weight problems.
A study of more than a thousand children between the ages of two and twelve revealed this somber finding: Children who watch two to four hours of television a day have a significantly higher likelihood of high cholesterol levels (above 200) than those who watch less than two hours a day.
Research by preventive medicine specialist Dr. Robert Klesges found that children watching TV tended to burn fewer calories per minute than those engaged in active play. The surprising finding: They tended to burn fewer calories than those who were reading ordoing nothing—in fact, almost as few as children who were sleeping.
Fortunately, these effects seem to be reversible. Other studies have showed that overweight children lost weight simply by decreasing their television viewing.
Viewing Television Violence Can Shape Our Children’s Minds and Hearts
During a child’s estimated 22,000 hours in front of television by age fourteen, he or she will have witnessed assaults on more than 18,000 individuals, usually without any negative consequences.
A 1995 study funded by the cable television industry tracked 2,500 hours of television programming and reported that 57 percent of television programs contain psychologically harmful violence.
Is it any wonder we see children who “play” violently, use foul language, and engage in fights?
Studies by George Gerbner have shown that children who watch a lot of television are more likely to think that the world is a mean and dangerous place. Pennsylvania State University researchers noticed real differences in behavior between preschool children who watched aggressive, violent cartoons and those who watched nonviolent ones.
They found that those who watched the violent shows—even if they were just funny cartoons—were more likely to lash out at their playmates, argue, disobey class rules, and leave tasks unfinished than those who watched the nonviolent shows.
Even more alarming, the effects of television violence on children are long term!
Researcher Leonard Eron found that children who watched many hours of television violence while in elementary school tended to show a higher level of aggressive behavior when they became teenagers, and they were more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for criminal acts as adults.
Too Much Television Viewing Can Decrease Family Interaction
Tuning in to television causes viewers to tune out those around them.
When we parents fail to limit television watching, we waste opportunities for children to learn how to relate to other people. As a family’s television time increases, family interaction decreases.
Yet, there’s a longing in the hearts of most young people today to have a deeper relationship with their families.
Three-fourths of the 750 ten- to sixteen-year-olds who participated in a nationwide survey said that if they had a choice between watching TV and spending time with their families, they’d opt for family time.
Children of all ages need loving, caring, daily contact with their parents. They seek from their parents both reassurance that they are loved and instruction for navigating adult society. This interaction is as important as food, water, and fresh air, but television can take it away.
One deeply hurt teenager told me, “I’m not as important to my mom and dad as their television.” This teenager actually wanted to get closer to her parents, but their television addiction made an intimate family relationship an all-but-impossible dream.
When your child wants your attention, do you sometimes respond with, “Shhh, I’m watching television”? If you do, it strongly indicates that television is your priority. When we put television ahead of people, it reveals a lot about the value we place on others.
Too Much Television Viewing Can Lower School Performance
Only a few television programs teach important skills such as math, reading, science, and problem solving. The vast majority of programs, including nearly every cartoon show, have virtually no educational value.
The more time a child spends watching these types of shows, the poorer his or her overall school performance and the lower his or her standardized test scores.
Many educators criticize television for promoting passive learning and shorter attention spans so that children have difficulty concentrating and working hard to solve problems. In addition, the more time children spend in front of a television, the less time they have available to spend on homework or in stimulating interactions with their parents or other people.
The research convinces me that television can have a devastating impact on our children’s health. We parents simply must transform this menacing enemy into a potentially beneficial ally. It’s imperative that we control the amount and content of television our children watch. The consequences of not doing so may be catastrophic.
You can read more about this in my book, God’s Design for the Highly Healthy Child. You can order it here.