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TV and your child

Dean M. Clifford, PhD.

As parents, we can’t ignore the power of TV.  We must:

  • understand the strong influence of television on young children
  • protect our children from the bad effects of television
  • use television in good ways.


Some preschoolers watch up to 3-4 hours each day! This may be much more time than a child spends one-on-one with his parent. Does this mean:

  • he will act like the people he sees on TV?
  • he will learn TV values instead of family values?
  • he will get wrong ideas about other races or about what it means to be a man or woman?

Young children learn skills by doing, not just by watching.  Children who watch too much TV typically have:

  • lower language skills
  • lower reading skills

Young TV watchers often don’t get enough exercise.  They don’t develop good motor skills (running, jumping, climbing, skipping, and throwing a ball).

Fast-paced TV programs can lower children’s attention spans.

TV violence can:

  • make children more aggressive
  • make children afraid
  • show children that violence is a good way to solve problems.

TV makes life seem too simple. Real problems usually take longer than 30 minutes to solve.

TV commercials teach children to want more, more, more – and to want it now!

Too much TV means less time for:

  • family fun
  • creativity and imagination


TV can be a good tool if we use it well.  Many programs help children learn and help teach good values. Slow-paced programs can interest children and teach them how to cooperate, be kind and be sensitive.

To use TV well:

  • screen what your child watches!  Change channels when you see violent or offensive programmes. 
  • look for nature programmes
  • set time limits.
  • turn off the TV when no one is watching.  Don't let it run in the background.
  • watch TV with your child
    • talk about what you see
    • ask questions about the programme
    • help your child think about what is happening.  Ask, "how would you feel it that happened to you?  What might happen next?  Why did they do that?  What are some other ways to handle this?"
    • remember that a young child can’t tell what is pretend and what is real life. You will need to explain a lot.
  • contact local TV stations and ask for better children’s programmes!

- Dean M. Clifford, PhD.

  Reprinted with permission of www.zerotofive.org