10 Ways Television Disrupts Your Life

Yes, television is enjoyable! In modern world, TV is one of the main sources of entertainment. Watching television is an experience shared by the vast majority of children and adults. It is convenient, inexpensive, available, and attractive.

It may be hard to believe that watching TV can damage our health, especially the health of kids, and disturb daily life, but there are many reasons that this is true. A number of studies have demonstrated negative effects of long TV hours.

To Watch or Not To Watch?

So, what is the answer?

I do not call upon not watch television at all. As research data demonstrates the problems come from heavy or prolonged viewing. Moderation and Wisdom is the key.

1 Extra pounds

Why does watching TV make you fat? The obvious explanation is that time spent watching TV means less time spent doing physical activity, and inactivity is a strong predictor for overweight and obesity. Many people watch over four hours of television a day, and that is frequently in addition to sitting at work for eight hours! The more the TV time, the fatter we are.

Recent research1 has proved that people who watch around two hours of TV per day are much more likely to be overweight than those who watched only half an hour per day. When you watch TV you are virtually motionless. Your heart rate, blood pressure and metabolic rate decline, resulting in burning 20 to 30 calories less per hour.

Another reason TV makes for extra pounds is people tend to eat between 31 and 74 percent more calories while watching TV. Research by Harvard University2 has shown that there is a link between the amount children eat and the amount of television they watch.

2 Unhealthy eating habits

TV advertising and diet are certainly linked. Research suggests that food choices are, in part, effected by TV advertising and that most TV advertising is for food with questionable nutritional value. Pepsi, M & M's, Bugles, Cheetos, Fritos, Doritos, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Burger King, Snickers, Starburst - it is debatable whether the popularity of these products is the result of "they taste good" or effective marketing campaigns.

Most ads during high child viewing hours are for sugary breakfast cereals, candy snacks, and fast food, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association's Asia Pacific Scientific Forum. Researchers also found that commercials didn't really even focus on the food, but on lifestyle and "having fun."

Though most research does focus on children, adults can also be influenced the same way.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health6 have found that older adolescents who have a bedroom television are less likely to engage in healthy activities such as exercising, eating fruits or vegetables, and enjoying family meals. They also consumed larger quantities of sweetened beverages and fast food, and read or studied less than teens without TVs in their bedrooms.

3 Poor school performance & learning difficulties

  • In a year, the average child spends 900 hours in school and nearly 1,023 hours in front of a TV. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids in the United States watch about 4 hours of TV a day - even though the AAP guidelines say children older than 2 should watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming.

More time spent watching TV is linked with poorer school performance overall and decreased scores on standardized tests4, 6, 7. This makes sense when you consider that more time spent in front of a TV means less time spent on homework or having stimulating interactions with adults or other children. In addition, late-night TV watching tires kids out so that they can't pay attention in school. Also, television hands kids all the answers, promoting passive learning and short attention spans. Researches say that students often "become accustomed to the passive enjoyment of entertainment" offered by TV and therefore find classroom lessons relatively dull. As a result, children have difficulty concentrating and working hard to solve a problem.

Japanese researchers conducted some of the earliest research on the relationship between television and impaired academic achievement. In 1962, they published findings that reading skills declined among Japanese fifth to seventh graders as soon as their family acquired a television set.

A study7 of elementary school students found that children who had television sets in their bedrooms scored significantly lower on school achievement tests than children without TVs in their bedrooms.

Teenagers who watch several hours of television a day do worse at school and are less likely to graduate than their peers, a new study suggests4. The 20-year study involving nearly 700 families in upstate New York, found that those watching more than three hours of TV a day were twice as likely not continue their education past high school. Those who watched three hours or more hours of TV had an 82% greater chance of not graduating or falling behind compared with teens who watched less than an hour - even after controlling for other factors, such as the learning difficulties the teens had at age 14 and their socio-economical status. The researchers say their study is the first to show that attention problems linked to TV viewing could be the cause of academic failure, since they controlled for learning difficulties and behavioural problems at the start of the study.

4 Behavior & development problems

Children who are actively playing will have more opportunity to develop their senses than children passively viewing. Children who watch too much TV have less time for these activities, which are so important for healthy development. Young children need to explore, move, manipulate, smell, touch and repeat as they learn.

Daily television viewing for two or more hours in early childhood can lead to behavioral problems and poor social skills, according to a study9 of children 2.5 to 5.5 years of age conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. More importantly, heavy television viewing that decreased over time was not associated with behavior or social problems.

Furthermore, when children are bombarded with TV images, their own ability to form imaginative pictures becomes severely impaired. This process of generating internal pictures is critical to the development of dendrites and neural connectors which lay the foundation for intelligence and creativity.

5 Television eats up your time

More time spend whatching TV means less time for other opportunities. According to Nielsen Media Research, the average American watches about 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the TV.

6 TV addiction

The term "TV addiction" is imprecise and laden with value judgments, but it captures the essence of a very real phenomenon. No one really thought seriously about TV addiction until recently, when a research found the characteristic behavior of persons addicted to drugs and to TV is the same. That is, persons addicted to TV shows the same behavioral patterns like someone who is addicted to drugs.

Signs of TV addiction include:

  • 1. Using TV as a sedative
  • 2. Indiscriminate viewing
  • 3. Feeling loss of control while viewing
  • 4. Feeling angry with oneself for watching too much
  • 5. Inability to stop watching
  • 6. Feeling miserable when kept from watching.

For some, it might be hard to even believe it's possible to get addicted to television. But studies have found that television addiction is all too real

Luckily, TV addiction is a habit and not a physical addiction like smoking. You should be able to control it once you are aware of the problem and make a decision to change.

7 Inactivity & laziness

Television pushes people toward a passive and sedentary lifestyle. TV is sitting in a sofa and not moving.

The easiest way to reduce inactivity is to turn off the TV set. Almost anything else uses more energy than watching TV.

8 Sleep disruption & emotional stress

Extensive TV watching, especially late-night, is associated with poor sleep patterns, as the light emitted from the television is too stimulating to our systems. Another problem with nighttime TV is it may prolong the hours before bedtime. Adolescents who watch three or more hours of television per day are more likely to have sleep problems and these problems persist when they become young adults10. There is strong evidence11 the presence of a television set in the child's bedroom results in sleep disturbances in school children.

9 Violence

Watching just one hour of television a day can make a person more violent towards others, according to a 25-year study8. In some circumstances, TV watching increases the risk of violence by five times. The research indicates the effect is seen not just in children, as has been suggested before, but in adults as well.

According to one long term study by Dr. Leonard D. Eron, watching television violence at age 8 was the strongest predictor of aggression later in life - stronger even than exhibiting violent behavior as children. A second, 15-year study5 reached similar conclusions.

The Media in the Home survey found that 28 percent of all children's shows contained four-or-more incidents of violence per show -- a number that media experts consider high. Several studies have shown that a child is more likely to display violent or antisocial behavior depending on the degree of violence and the total number of violent programs he or she watches. Heavy tv viewing, heavy kids

To give you perspective on just how much violence kids see on TV, consider this: The average American child will witness 200,000 violent acts on television by age 18. TV violence sometimes begs for imitation because violence is often demonstrated and promoted as a fun and effective way to get what you want.

10 Attention problems

Childhood TV viewing is linked to teen attention problems. Watching television more than two hours a day early in life can lead to attention problems later in adolescence, according to a large long-term study3. The roughly 40% increase in attention problems among "heavy" TV viewers was observed in both boys and girls, and was independent of whether a diagnosis of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder was made prior to adolescence. Those who watched more than two hours, and particularly those who watched more than three hours, of television per day during childhood had above-average symptoms of attention problems in adolescence.

Sources & References

  • 1. Shanthy A Bowman. Television-Viewing Characteristics of Adults: Correlations to Eating Practices and Overweight and Health Status. Prev Chronic Dis. 2006 April; 3(2): A38.
  • 2. Ads for Unhealthy Foods May Explain Link Between Television Viewing and Overweight in Children
  • 3. Carl Erik Landhuis, BA, Richie Poulton, PhD, David Welch, PhD and Robert John Hancox, PhD Does Childhood Television Viewing Lead to Attention Problems in Adolescence? Results From a Prospective Longitudinal Study PEDIATRICS Vol. 120 No. 3 September 2007, pp. 532-537
  • 4. Jeffrey G. Johnson, PhD; Patricia Cohen, PhD; Stephanie Kasen, PhD; Judith S. Brook, EdD Extensive Television Viewing and the Development of Attention and Learning Difficulties During Adolescence. Vol. 161 No. 5, May 2007 Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine
  • 5. Huesmann LR, Moise-Titus J, Podolski CL, Eron LD. Longitudinal relations between children's exposure to TV violence and their aggressive and violent behavior in young adulthood: 1977-1992. Dev Psychol. 2003 Mar;39(2):201-21.
  • 6. Barr-Anderson DJ, van den Berg P, Neumark-Sztainer D, Story M. Characteristics associated with older adolescents who have a television in their bedrooms. Pediatrics. 2008 Apr;121(4):718-24
  • 7. Borzekowski DL, Robinson TN. The remote, the mouse, and the no. 2 pencil: the household media environment and academic achievement among third grade students. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005 Jul;159(7):607-13.
  • 8. Johnson JG, Cohen P, Smailes EM, Kasen S, Brook JS. Television viewing and aggressive behavior during adolescence and adulthood. Science. 2002 Mar 29;295(5564):2468-71.
  • 9. Mistry KB, Minkovitz CS, Strobino DM, Borzekowski DL. Children's television exposure and behavioral and social outcomes at 5.5 years: does timing of exposure matter? Pediatrics. 2007 Oct;120(4):762-9.
  • 10. Johnson JG, Cohen P, Kasen S, First MB, Brook JS. Association between television viewing and sleep problems during adolescence and early adulthood. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004 Jun;158(6):562-8.
  • 11. Owens J, Maxim R, McGuinn M, Nobile C, Msall M, Alario A. Television-viewing habits and sleep disturbance in school children. Pediatrics. 1999 Sep;104(3):e27.

Last updated: May, 2011



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