Kids are captivated by the sounds and sights of what's playing on the television screen.
They can spend hours fixated on it, forgetting everything else. During that time, they are generally quiet and stationary, not whining, fighting, asking questions, climbing, fidgeting, making messes, damaging things, or otherwise requiring parental intervention.
But is it good for children?
Here are some basic ways that excessive screen time does not promote healthy development in children:
1. Sedentary children are not moving their growing muscles and bones, which is required for normal development. Obesity is affecting vast numbers of children before they are old enough to be making their own choices in food, drink, and exercise. In other words, it's parental-induced obesity, and too much couch potato behavior is adding to the problem.
2. Children are born with natural curiosity about the world and the people, animals, plants, and objects in their environment. Everything is pulled, pushed, squeezed, dropped, tasted, and shaken, to see how these things behave. That is normal behavior. When children are placed in front of screens too much, that natural curiosity and desire to explore begins to diminish. The screen becomes addictive. Everything else becomes "boring."
3. Because children learn to be sedentary and receive continual stimulation and input from movement and sounds on the television with no effort, movement, on involvement on their part, in addition to everything else becoming "boring," they also become very passive and lazy. Tasks or chores like cleaning their room or putting their shoes away become arduous. Creativity and inventiveness are stifled in the child who is accustomed to continual exciting input with no output. Creative play, which has long been a childhood staple, is stunted, and children become dependent on someone else to tell them what to do in order to not be bored. Children should not even know how to get bored. Pre-TV, healthy children created their own play and didn't know the meaning of the word "boredom."
4. Some parents think that "educational" TV programs intended for children are actually helping children. Research does not line up with these beliefs. Especially "Baby Einstein" geared towards young babies has shown detrimental effects including delayed language development. The findings in research led the American Academy of Pediatrics to recommend that no child under the age of 2 should watch any television.
5. Screen time removes time to connect with children. Children have many, many questions, and one of their needs is to have a secure attachment to a parent or consistent caregiver who is loving, responsive and engages with them. Screen time hampers time to connect and build the key relationship between parent and child during the critical formative years. There is a relatively small window to influence and teach children before they grow up and move along to start their own life when you remove sleeping and school hours that it's important to make the most of the time you do have to bond and interact with your children.
6. The more TV children watch, the shorter of an attention span they have later in life. (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/113/4/708
by Dr. Dimitri Christakis et al., University of Washington)
7. Violent content has a negative effect on children. (http://www.apa.org/about/gr/pi/advocacy/2008/kunkel-tv.aspx,
Dr. Dale Kunkel)
They can have chemical changes in the brain similar to what is seen with post-traumatic stress disorder. Children have difficulty diffrentiating between real violence and pretend violence. Children exposed to violence become less empathetic and more aggressive, have more fear and less patience, more unwilling to cooperate with others and less able to handle frustration without having outbursts. Children habituated to violence on screen are more likely to become violent as teenagers and have more interactions with the law.
8. Sexual content has a negative effect on children. Children who are exposed to sexual content are more likely to become sexual at earlier ages when they are not mature enough to understand the potentially lifelong consequences of their actions. Children are increasingly being sexualized at younger and younger ages, to their great harm and detriment. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/real-healing/201208/overexposed-and-under-prepared-the-effects-early-exposure-sexual-content, http://www.health.state.mn.us/injury/docs/Normalization_of_Sexual_Harm_Fact_Sheet.pdf