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Television and the Family

How TV affects your child


Children in the United States watch about 4 hours of TV every day. Playing, reading, and spending time with friends and family are much healthier than sitting in front of a TV screen.


Studies show that children who watch too much television are more likely to be overweight. They do not spend as much time running, jumping, and getting the exercise they need. They often snack while watching TV. Commercials almost never give information about the foods children should eat to keep healthy. As a result, children may persuade their parents to buy unhealthy foods.


Children who see violence on television may not understand that real violence hurts and kills people. They become numb to violence. If the “good guys” use violence, children may learn that it is okay to use force to solve problems. Watching a lot of violence on television can lead to hostility, fear, anxiety, depression, nightmares, sleep disturbances, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is best not to let your child watch violent programs and cartoons.


Television exposes children to adult behaviors, like sex. But it usually does not show the risks and results of sexual activity. On TV, sexual activity is shown as normal, fun, exciting, and without consequences. Your child may copy what he/she sees on TV to feel more grown up.

Alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs

Young people today are surrounded by messages that say drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes or cigars are normal activities. These messages do not say that alcohol and tobacco harm people and may lead to death. Beer and wine are some of the most advertised products on television. TV programs and commercials often show people who drink and smoke as healthy, energetic, sexy, and successful. It is up to you to teach your child the truth about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.


The average child sees more than 40,000 commercials each year. Commercials are quick, fast-paced, and entertaining. Commercials try to convince your child that having a certain toy or eating a certain food will make him happy or popular. Children need to know that ads try to convince people to buy things they may not need.


Television affects how your child learns. High-quality, nonviolent children’s shows can have a positive effect on learning. When used carefully, television can be a positive tool to help your children learn.

10 things parents can do

  1. Set limits. Limit your child’s use of TV, movies, and video/computer games to no more than 1-2 hours per day.
  2. Plan your child’s viewing. Use program guides and TV ratings to help you and your child choose shows.
  3. Watch TV with your child. Explain that characters on TV are make-believe and not real. Talk with your child about what he watched.
  4. Find the right message. Even a poor program can turn out to be a learning experience if you help your child find the right message.
  5. Help your child resist commercials. Limit the number of commercials your child sees by watching public television stations (PBS). You can also record programs and leave out the commercials or buy/rent children’s videos or DVDs.
  6. Look for quality children’s videos and DVDs.
  7. Give other options. Help your child find other things to do with his time.
  8. Set a good example. Limit your own TV viewing time and choose your programs carefully.
  9. Express your views. When you like or do not like something you see on television, make yourself heard.
  10. Get more information. Your pediatricianmay have information about TV. Public service groups publish newsletters that review programs and give tips on how to make TV a positive experience for you and your child.


Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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