Since the dawn of television, children have found this an enjoyable and interactive pastime. Visual stimulation is preferred by children in comparison to any other media, and current figures report than children watch an average of four hours of television a day. These figures are much larger than they were almost half a century ago, but changes in lifestyle and technological advances make this inevitable. However, many people question how television is affecting the lives of modern children.
Children`s television programmes began in the 1950s. By 1951 television showed up to 27 hours per week of television programmes aimed at children. The usual time slot was late afternoon and evening with programmes aimed at shorter viewing periods. In the mid 50s the Saturday morning television programme slot was discovered, and since then has long since been kept for children`s viewing. The 1960s saw a switch to animation based television programmes which were cheaper to produce. The lower the cost; the more could be produce and children`s television gained more viewing slots. In the 1970s programmes were made longer to increase viewing figures and in the 80s cable television arrived. This enriched and widened the scope for the provision for children and dedicated television channels were aired.
As the industry grew, so did the concern for the effects of watching television on children. The children`s television act arrived in the 1990s, requiring high levels of research and monitoring in that area. The main concerns centred around health, academic progress and the effects of violence on television. The first testimonial involving the effects of violence on television on juvenile behaviour was brought about in the US as early as 1952. The effects of violence on television have been studied since 1964 when it was officially ruled that television was a factor in children`s behaviour. The main concerns were that levels of violence would increase through copied behaviour, with children becoming desensitised.
So, what has been determined through research with regards to children and television violence? Two outcomes were discovered; catharsis and stimulation which are still the leading theories in this area. Catharsis was found to remove negativity, whereas the stimulation effect increased violent emotions with the latter showing to be the most likely outcome. There is a proven small and consistent link between viewing violence and increased aggression. However, the results were highest amongst children witnessing violence at home rather than non television.
Other studies showed that there are definite cognitive effects when children watch television as they are stimulated by visual movement. This includes the movement of colour, camera angles, and panoramic views. Television aimed at children takes this into account and this is why children seem transfixed. Research shows, however, that attention to the television is in fact fragmentary before the age of two, but it steadily increases until attention peaks at the age of 12 years. The understanding of many concepts is lost until aged 10 in the average child as there is too much information to comprehend and so concentration depends upon pure enjoyment.
In terms of health, the main problem is obesity through a lack of exercise, and so television has been blamed for this in part. This is because watching television distracts the receptors in the brain which let the child know when they are full. However, there is no research to state that this has any more effect than general family eating habits. Television is like any other factor in life; it can have positive effects in moderation. There are no suggested guidelines for television viewing, and so it is down to personal and family choice.
If you have concerns about the effects upon your child, the best advice is to look at family attitudes towards television. This includes the amount of time spent watching television, the type of programmes viewed and even comments made. It is possible to limit the type of programmes viewed, and to reduce the time spent watching by offering it as a reward system. To improve educational elements, discuss issues raised with honesty and interest and your child will be encouraged towards this type of programme.