We worry about so many dangers to our children—drugs, perverts, bullies—but seldom notice the biggest menace of all: the multibillion-dollar marketing effort aimed at turning the kids into oversexed, status-obsessed, attention-deficient little consumers.
- Barbara Ehrenreich
Every activity a child engages in during his busy day refines some set of skills. Reading is practice; writing is practice; sports is practice; engaging in fantasy games is practice; and interacting with people is practice. All these activities in some way help prepare a child for the challenges of adult life. Television is also practice, but not for any activity. Television is practice for inactivity.
- Lawrence Kelemen
If you came and you found a strange man... teaching your kids to punch each other, or trying to sell them all kinds of products, you'd kick him right out of the house, but here you are; you come in and the TV is on, and you don't think twice about it.
- Jerome Singer
Cognitive Effects of TV
"Angeline Lillard and Jennifer Peterson, both of the University of Virginia's department of psychology, wanted to see whether watching fast-paced television had an immediate influence on kids' executive function -- skills including attention, working memory, problem solving and delay of gratification that are associated with success in school. Television's negative effect on executive function over the long term has been established, the researchers wrote Monday in the journal Pediatrics, but less is known about its immediate effects. To test what those might be, Lillard and Peterson randomly assigned 60 4-year-olds to three groups: one that watched nine minutes of a fast-paced, "very popular fantastical cartoon about an animated sponge that lives under the sea;" one that watched nine minutes of slower-paced programming from a PBS show "about a typical U.S. preschool-aged boy;" and a third group that was asked to draw for nine minutes with markers and crayons. Immediately after their viewing and drawing tasks were complete, the kids were asked to perform four tests to assess executive function. Unfortunately for the denizens of Bikini Bottom, the kids who watched nine minutes of the frenetic high jinks of the "animated sponge" scored significantly worse than the other kids." - Los Angeles Times (Sept 2011) and Pediatrics (Sept 2011) and Medical News Today (Sept 2011) and USA Today (Sept 2011) and Science Daily (Sept 2011) and Mail Online (Sept 2011) and Researcher (Sept 2011) and PsychCentral (Sept 2011) and Earth Sky (Sept 2011) and Obesity Panacea (Sept 2011) and The New York Times Blog (Sept 2011) and San Francisco Chronicle (Sept 2011) and US News Health (Sept 2011) and Psypost (Sept 2011)
"Middle-class 6-year-olds matched for sex, age, pretest WPPSI IQ, and TV-viewing time were blindly assigned to a restricted TV-viewing group or an unrestricted group. Restricted parents halved subjects' previous TV-viewing rates and interacted 20 min./day with subjects for a 6-week period. Unrestricted TV parents provided similar interactions but did not limit viewing. Results tentatively suggest that TV restriction enhanced Performance IQ, reading time, and reflective Matching Familiar Figures scores." - Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology (Winter 1980)
"Subsequent work by Malach and colleagues has found that, when we're engaged in intense "sensorimotor processing" - and nothing is more intense than staring at a massive screen with Dolby surround sound while wearing 3-D glasses - we actually inhibit these prefrontal areas. The scientists argue that such "inactivation" allows us to lose ourself in the movie" - Frontal Cortex (Jan 2010)
"There was greater frontal lobe activation in children when they were engaged in a picture book reading task with their mothers, as opposed to passive viewing of a videotape in which the story was read to them. Social and verbal engagement of the mother in reading picture books with her young child may mediate frontal brain activity in the child." - Pubmed (Oct 2009)
"The EEG studies similarly show less mental stimulation, as measured by alpha brain-wave production, during viewing than during reading." - Scientific American (Feb 2002)
"Children who spend longer than two hours in front of a computer or television screen are more likely to suffer psychological difficulties, regardless of how physically active they are." - Science Daily (Oct 2010) and CNet News (Oct 2010)
"Teens who spend more time watching television or using computers appear to have poorer relationships with their parents and peers, according to a report in the March issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals." - Science Daily (March 2010)
"Our homes are crammed with labour-saving devices and electronic entertainment that previous generations couldn't even dream of. Surely our children should be growing happier every year? According to figures released last month, one in ten children now suffers from a clinically-recognised mental health problem.... A damning survey by the National Consumer Council, reported in the Mail, revealed that children who watch too much television and spend hours on the internet are "greedy and unhappy". "These children argue more with their families, have a lower opinion of their parents, and lower self-esteem than other children," the report said." - The Daily Mail (July 2007)
"Researchers found that children who watched more than two hours of television per day from age 2 1/2 until age 5 1/2 were more likely to develop sleep, attention, and aggressive behavior problems than those who watched less." - Science Daily (Oct 2007) and WebMD (Oct 2007) and Arizona Republic (Oct 2007) via Unplug Your Kids (Oct 2007)
"Middle school students who watch TV or play video games during the week do worse in school, a new study finds, but weekend viewing and gaming doesn't affect school performance much." - USAToday (Oct 2006) More on the same study - Telegraph (Oct 2006) - More on the same study - CBS News (Oct 2006) - and more MSNBC (Oct 2006) - and more Softpedia (Oct 2006)
Childhood TV and gaming is 'major public health issue' - New Scientist (April 2006)
"Children are more likely to watch high levels of television if their parents do, but parents do not need to be physically active to help their children to be active, a new study has found." - The Medical News (May 2010)
Parents see media, not sex, as top worry: study - Reuters (Feb 2007)
What do I need to know about children and television? - University of Michigan (June 2007)
"In what researchers call the first report of its kind, a review of 173 studies about the effects of media consumption on children asserts that a strong correlation exists between greater exposure and adverse health outcomes." - The New York Times (Dec 2008)
"In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, 110 teachers, psychologists, children's authors and other experts call on the Government to act to prevent the death of childhood." They write: "We are deeply concerned at the escalating incidence of childhood depression and children's behavioural and developmental conditions."
Strangers in Our Homes: TV and Our Children's Minds - Susan Johnson, M.D. (1999)
Kids' Brains Must Be Different - Excerpted from Endangered Minds
What About Play? When "screen time" and drills replace open-ended play, kids lose out - eRethinking Schools (2005)
"...a study which examined the association between maternal depression and television watching in children" - Psychology Today (2002)
"sleep disturbances and stomach ailments were frequently reported as resulting from a child's viewing of something frightening on TV" - Parenthood in America (1998)
Childhood pastimes are increasingly moving indoors - Free Range Kids versus Battery Cage kids - USA Today (July 2005)
PERSONAL HEALTH; TV's Toll on Young Minds and Bodies - The New York Times (Aug 2004)
Psychologist warns of "educational television" myth - Reuters (Feb 2008) via Unplug Your Kids
"Television and Children" - University of Michigan (Aug 2010)
"The Pornification Of A Generation: A new book traces the migration of porn culture from adult theaters to the mainstream—and asks what that means for kids." - Newsweek (Oct 2008)
Television and Children (University of Michigan)
"TV should be banned for toddlers and severely rationed for other youngsters to protect their health and family life, a leading psychologist will tell MEPs today." - Mail Online (Aug 2010)
"TV Tells Kids Fame is the Most Important Thing in Life, Study Finds" - Parent Dish (July 2011)
Scientists Recommending 1 to 2 Hours at Most
"For health benefits, children (aged 5-11 years) and youth (aged 12-17 years) should minimize the time they spend being sedentary each day. This may be achieved by: Limit recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours per day; lower levels are associated with additional health benefits." - Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines and Sedentary Behaviour Research Network (July 2011)
"Limit children's total media time (with entertainment media) to no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming per day." - AAP Policy (Feb 2001)
Children and Watching TV - American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (March 2001)
"Child care settings limiting screen time, including television, cell phone, or digital media, for preschoolers (aged two-five) to less than 30 minutes per day for children in half-day programs or less than one hour per day for those in full-day programs. Health care providers counseling parents and children’s caregivers to permit no more than a total of two hours per day of screen time, including television, cell phone, or digital media, for preschoolers, including time spent in child care settings and early childhood education programs." - Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (June 2011)
Like the sorcerer of old, the television set casts its magic spell,
freezing speech and action, turning the living into silent statues
so long as the enchantment lasts. The primary danger of the
television screen lies not so much in the behavior it produces -
although there is danger there - as in the behavior it prevents:
The talks, the games, the family festivals, and the arguments
through which much of the child's learning takes place and
through which his character is formed. Turning on the television
set can turn off the process that transforms children into people.
- Urie Bronfenbrenner
TV Contributes to Noisy Home Environment
"We've known for a long time that chronic noise is having a devastating effect on academic performance of children in noisy homes and schools" - Education World (July 1997)
"A child's brain has to work overtime in a noisy classroom to do its typical but very important job of distinguishing sounds whose subtle differences are key to success with language and reading. But that simply is too much to ask of the nervous system of a subset of poor readers whose hearing is fine, but whose brains have trouble differentiating the "ba," "da" and "ga" sounds in a noisy environment, according to a new Northwestern University study." - Science Daily (July 2009)
TV and Sleep
"According to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Division of Adolescent and School Health, teens who spend two hours or more on non-academic computer use or video games every day are less likely to get enough sleep than their more "unplugged" peers." - Psychology Today (Nov 2011)
"Based on information recorded in the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), just under 70% of students surveyed said they got less than eight hours of sleep nightly, Lela McKnight-Eily, MD, and colleagues reported. That lack of sleep was associated with an increased risk of a number of unhealthy behaviors including drug and alcohol use, physical inactivity, and suicidal thoughts, the authors wrote in Preventive Medicine." MedPageToday (Sept 2011)
"Video games, mobile phones and TV are keeping children up at night, answers to a BBC questionnaire suggest." - BBC News (Feb 2010)
"A growing body of research is finding that infants and children under the age of 3 who watch TV — even too much TV during the day — struggle with interrupted sleep and irregular bed and naptime schedules. A recent study found that children under age 3 who watch television are at higher risk of disturbed sleep. Other studies have looked at the effects of TV viewing on older children and teens, and also found a link between TV, poor sleep and later bedtimes." - Health Blog (Feb 2008)
"TV Time Disrupts Tots' Sleep" - Health News (Oct 2005)
"Too much TV during the day could mean too little sleep for kids, according to a new study." - Science Central (June 2004)
"Children who spend hours in front of the television could be storing up sleep problems for later in life, say scientists. Watching three hours or more a day leaves teenagers twice as likely to develop sleep problems when they get older." - Daily Mail (Oct 2004)
"Feelings of depression and low self-esteem plague children as they advance through middle school because they get increasingly less sleep, according to a new study of 2,259 Illinois students. - Science Daily (Feb 2004)
"Reducing the amount of sleep students get at night has a direct impact on their performance at school during the day. According to classroom teachers, elementary and middle school students who stay up late exhibit more learning and attention problems, Brown Medical School and Bradley Hospital research shows." - Science Daily - (Nov 2005)
"Of the 280 examined in the Pediatrics study, those who slept for fewer than eight hours were the most hyperactive." - BBC News (April 2009)
In Defense of a Good Night's Sleep
"Teens who spend long hours watching television are at higher risk for depression as adults, a new study finds." - Health News (Feb 2009) - More on this study - Los Angeles Times (Feb 2009)
"While popular TV shows of past generations, such as "Happy Days," focused on values including benevolence, self-acceptance and tradition, today's shows emphasize fame as the No. 1 value, according to a new study." - Live Science (July 2011)
"Most parents underestimate the impact movies have on their children. This study clearly shows that adolescents are much more likely to smoke or drink if their parents let them watch R-rated movies" - Science Daily (Feb 2002)
"Study First to Link TV Sex To Real Teen Pregnancies" - Washington Post (Nov 2008)
"Teens Who Have TV In Their Bedroom Are Less Likely To Engage In Healthy Habits, Study Shows" - Science Daily (April 2008)
"Greater Exposure to Sexual Content in Popular Movies Predicts Earlier Sexual Debut and Increased Sexual Risk Taking" - Science (July 2012) and Psychology Today (Aug 2012) and Psychology Today (Aug 2012)
"A report of the American Psychological Association (APA) released today found evidence that the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harmful to girls' self-image and healthy development." - Science Daily (Feb 2007)
"Countering the Sexualization of Your Youth" - CCFC (Nov 2009)
"Does Watching Sex on Television Influence Teens’ Sexual Activity?" - Rand Health (2004)
"Watching Sex on Television Predicts Adolescent Initiation of Sexual Behavior"
Pediatrics (Sept 2004)
"A steady diet of sex-saturated television might encourage teens to start sex earlier, a national survey of 1,762 kids suggests today." - USA Today (Sept 2004)
"A new study finds the more an adolescent watches television, the more likely they are to start smoking." - Bio-Medicine (Sept 2002)
"Not only was viewing more romance-themed TV shows associated with teenagers having more traditional views of gender roles, but having these views was in turn associated with teenagers have more romantic partners and starting to go on dates from a younger age." - BPS Research Digest (July 2008)
"The likelihood of 20-somethings moving to another state has dropped well over 40 percent since the 1980s, according to calculations based on Census Bureau data. The stuck-at-home mentality hits college-educated Americans as well as those without high school degrees. According to the Pew Research Center, the proportion of young adults living at home nearly doubled between 1980 and 2008, before the Great Recession hit. Even bicycle sales are lower now than they were in 2000. Today’s generation is literally going nowhere." - The New York Times (March 2012)
Parents Setting Limits
"Limit media distractions in your home. Many children are not as good at filtering out noise as adults are. This means that having the television on while your child is trying to do her homework may interfere with her ability to concentrate. Limit your child to one hour of "screen time" per day. This means limiting television, electronic games and other forms of eye-candy." - Psychology Today (April 2011)
"We don't expect children to regulate their own dessert intake. Most kids, if allowed to make their own choices, would elect to eat more junk food than is best for their health. Instead of letting that happen, we guide them and set boundaries that over time teach self-care. Some children need more supervision, some children need less - but all of them need guidance. In the same way, it is imperative that instead of letting anything just happen to us, parents make intentional choices about the role of media in our lives." - Psychology Today (April 2011)
Imagination is more important than knowledge, for while knowledge points to all there is, imagination points to all there will be - Einstein
But what about educational TV? TV is an effective means of passive learning. Unfortunately TV (educational or not) associates a very rewarding experience with no effort. Before TV there was no equivalent experience other than day dreaming. So kids get used to learning and being rewarded with no effort on their part, in other words watching TV is actually training their brain to be lazy. Then when it's time to start school, learning takes effort and is quite boring compared to TV. Even play takes effort, hence the common observation that kids who watch a lot of TV are less interested in playing.
Well, why not just have the kids go to school and learn from educational TV? Education is about more than just info aquisition, it's also about learning skills, such as reading, writing, math, etc. And learning skills takes effort. After thousands of hours of effortless learning (and being rewarded) kids are that much less motivated to make that effort. And that's something that makes life much harder for our nation's teachers.
For those kids not raised on TV, making an effort becomes second-nature. This would help explain this study: ...watching a lot of television during childhood means you are a lot less likely to have a degree by your mid-twenties, according to new University of Otago research
Maybe it's the failed work ethic of todays kids
Self-Discipline More Important Than IQ ?
Passive Learning From Television (pdf)
Habit Learning - TV Makes Learning Less Efficient
Young Children Need to Play!
Marketing to Children
"Strong toy ad dollars on kids' TV networks are fueling a surprisingly higher-priced third- and fourth-quarter selling period. " - Media Post (Sept 2010) via Screentime Awareness
"Researchers at the University of Wisconsin and University of Michigan found that children aged three to five succumbed to the same marketing pressures as young adults, in that they understood the advertiser wanted them to buy something and that buying the product could make them happier."
Research shows that children under the age of eight are unable to critically comprehend televised advertising messages and are prone to accept advertiser messages as truthful, accurate and unbiased.
AAP - "Children, Adolescents, and Advertising"
"Infants to 3-year-olds: They're a new demographic marketers are hell-bent on reaching." - Ad Week (Sept 2011)
"How Modern Day Mad Men Are Making Our Kids Fat and Sick" - Psychology Today (Jan 2011)
"Children are big business. And that means my daughter is a popular kid these days. Taco Bell wants her, and so do McDonald's and Burger King. Abercrombie & Fitch has a whole store devoted to her. Pert Plus has a shampoo she'll love. Ethan Allen is creating bedroom sets she can't live without. ALPO even wants to sell her dog food. Even while I, like all American parents, am held responsible for the safety and behavior of my preteen, corporations spend over $12 billion each year to bombard her incessantly with messages that undermine my efforts."
"This is significant when we consider that the most essential product of the advertising industry is hunger. That is, commercials are intended to create a feeling of lack in the viewer, a deep ache that can only be assuaged by purchasing the product. As Dr. Neil Postman, chairman of the Department of Communications Arts at New York University, points out, “What the advertiser needs to know is not what is right about the product but what is wrong about the buyer.” So we hand our children over to Madison Avenue to be told, hundreds of hours a year, how hungry, bored, ugly, and unpopular they are and will continue to be until they spend (or persuade their parents to spend) a few more dollars. And then we wonder why our children feel so hungry, bored, ugly, and unpopular, and why they are so needy."
"In Sweden it is considered unacceptable and is banned for children under 12 with the approval of the majority of the population."
Companies are accused of routinely hiring child and consumer psychologists to "help them target children effectively", with devastating consequences for the health and wellbeing of youngsters.
"Regrettably, a large gap has arisen between the humane mission of psychology and the drift of the profession into helping corporations influence children for the purpose of selling products to them. The use of psychological insight and methodology to bypass parents and influence the behavior and desires of children is a crisis for the profession of psychology."
"A report of the American Psychological Association (APA) released today found evidence that the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harmful to girls' self-image and healthy development."
The Stepford Kids
"What most surprised me were the results I got from my study, which found that the more kids are exposed to consumer culture, they likelier they are to become depressed, suffer from anxiety, or experience low self-esteem. I would have thought it was the other way around — that consumer culture was the symptom, not the cause."
Channel One - How Much Remembered?
Consuming Kids: Protecting Our Children from the Onslaught of Marketing & Advertising
Watch Not, Want Not? Packard/Stanford Study Links Kids' TV Time and Consumerism
Effects of Reducing Television Viewing on Children's Requests for Toys: A Randomized Controlled Trial
"Childhood for Sale: Consumer Culture's Bid for Our Kids" - DLC (Aug 2005)
A Review of "Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds"
Research shows that children under the age of eight are unable to critically comprehend televised advertising messages and are prone to accept advertiser messages as truthful, accurate and unbiased.
"A comparison group of children from Sweden, where advertising to children is not permitted, asked for significantly fewer items. It is argued that English children who watch more TV, and especially those who watch alone, may be socialised to become consumers from a very early age. "
"Identifying determinants of young children's brand awareness: Television, parents, and peers " - Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology (April 2005)
TV Food Ads Misleading Kids
TV Ads Add Pounds to Our Kids
TV ads contribute to child obesity
Researchers Say Prime Time for Kids Has Heavy Advertising for High-Sugar Foods
"A report published this month confirms that television is effective in getting children to eat the foods advertised"
"Children’s television networks show 76 percent more food commercials per hour than other networks – and most of them are for high-fat, high-sugar foods, according to a new study." - Food Navigator (Nov 2009)
Other Countries Restrict Advertising to Children
Today’s children are unique in many ways from previous generations, but perhaps the most influencing on our young children today is Television advertisements.
"Sweden Pushes Its Ban on Children's Ads"
"How Alcohol Companies Launched a Digital Campaign Against America's Kids"