As technology invades our lives more and more, it is becoming very common for children to grow up with a television in their bedroom. The average American child between the ages of 8 and 18 watches about 4.5 hours of TV a day. Seventy percent of children have a TV in the bedroom and about one-third of every preschooler does as well. Is this simply a harmless entertainment option with no affect on our children or are there damaging side effects to this seemingly innocent device we are placing into their bedrooms?
An article in the New York Times states that “a growing body of research shows strong associations between TV in the bedroom and numerous health and educational problems” Research shows that children with bedroom TV’s score lower on school tests, have more sleep problems, as well as having a much higher risk for obesity, smoking and the health problems related to obesity. It is recommended by the AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics that children under the age of two do not watch TV at all and that older children limit their screen time to two hours a day or less. This not only includes the television but also other electronic devices that most of us have around the house as well.
The most obvious problem when children have their own television in their bedroom is that parents simply can not monitor the amount of time that is spent watching TV as well as they can when the TV is in a central, family location. The TV causes distractions with homework and less time is spent reading. An article in the LA Times explains that kids with a bedroom TV not only spend more time watching television altogether, but compared to television watched in a family room, “the screen time a kid logs in his or her bedroom is linked hour-for-hour, to more belly fat, higher triglycerides and overall greater risk for developing heart disease and diabetes".
While some parents have come to rely on the TV to babysit their young children when they need to get something done or as a way to get them to bed easier, watching TV right before bedtime has actually been shown to disrupt the child’s sleep. According to a recent study in Pediatrics, children with a bedroom TV were more likely to have daytime tiredness. Children also had more trouble falling asleep, more nightmares, and more awakenings if they watched TV at all in the one hour prior to going to bed.
Here are the main areas that a bedroom television is shown to negatively affect children:
- sleep disturbance
- lower test scores
- increased tendency for smoking
- poor diet choices
Of course, not all television is bad, and children can learn many things from educational programs. The key, though, is to limit time spent in front of the TV and to carefully monitor what our children are watching, as well as making sure they are getting plenty of physical activity. Having a television in their room makes this difficult to do and research has shown that it does negatively affect the children who are allowed to have a bedroom TV.
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