Sports & Activities

Why You Should Go TV-Free

“Because it will make you fat” is a legitimate reason to lose the TV in your child’s bedroom.

Girl with ADHD watching TV on couch and suffering from sleep issues
Girl with ADHD watching TV on couch and suffering from sleep issues

Children who have a TV in their bedrooms run a higher risk of obesity, according to new research from the American Academy of Pediatrics. After surveying more than 2,700 parents of young children, they found that children with TV sets in their bedrooms watched almost five hours more TV and videos per week than those without, and were more likely to be overweight.

Parents can now cite scientific research when they say “Because it will make you fat” when their child asks why they can’t watch TV all day, every day during their summer vacation, along with “Because it will make you violent” and the ever popular “Because I said so.” In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under age two not watch television at all. Parents of older children should monitor how much and what their children are watching and not be afraid to say when enough is enough.

AAP recommends that doctors have parents fill out a “media history,” along with a medical history, on office visits. This is especially important during the summer months, when kids have more time to imitate what they see on TV. Knowing what the child has been watching might help the doctor to understand how the accident occurred.

I thought about this as I was watching the tube with Matt the other day. One of my son’s favorite programs is “You Gotta See This.” I must admit that when I was a child, one of my favorite things to watch was the Wide World of Sports intro with the crashing, tumbling, flailing skier. That had to hurt. “You Gotta See This” is an entire half hour of programming of such “Agony of Defeat” moments. It’s only one of several shows in this genre. According to Matt, these programs are very, very kewl, something Matt tries hard to be. Unfortunately there no one was making a video tape of the concussion he received when his own head hit the pavement.

Stupid flying human tricks are dangerous, but at least they’re self-inflicted — if that’s any comfort. Researchers at Columbia University found a significant association between the amount of time spent watching television during adolescence and early adulthood and the likelihood of acts of violence or aggression against others. Even after factoring out things like previous aggressive behavior, childhood neglect, family income, neighborhood violence, parental education, and psychiatric disorders, the teens and young adults who watched violence on TV were more likely to act out.

Specific research on TV and children who have ADHD is scarce. However, ADHD is an impulse control disorder. Our children are more likely to do something without considering the consequences. Children with ADHD often miss critical details and may have a hard time distinguishing between events that are staged for TV and things that happen in the real world.

What’s a parent to do? Pediatricians offer these ideas:

  • pay attention to the programs their children are watching and watch some with them
  • set limits on the amount of time they spend with the television; consider removing the TV set from the child’s bedroom
  • point out that although the actor has not actually been hurt or killed, such violence in real life results in pain or death
  • refuse to let the children see shows known to be violent, and change the channel or turn off the TV set when offensive material comes on, with an explanation of what is wrong with the program
  • disapprove of the violent episodes in front of the children, stressing the belief that such behavior is not the best way to resolve a problem
  • to offset peer pressure among friends and classmates, contact other parents and agree to enforce similar rules about the length of time and type of program the children may watch

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