Health Watch -- Kids and TV Part 2

Health Watch is a Public Service of the  Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

What is television doing to American children?

A survey found that American children under the age of 6 are watching an average of two hours of television a day, and more than 40 percent of children under the age of 2 watch some television every day.

This study has many doctors alarmed, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, with the rise of childhood obesity and related health problems in this country, it’s not good news to find that children are spending their time watching television instead of being active. But other concerns focus on what this is doing to children psychologically. Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center are finding that television can have a significant impact even on adults.

One important impact of television is that it may increase stress levels in viewers. Dr. Vicki Nejtek, a UT Southwestern psychiatrist, is researching the impact of TV, videos and computer games. She found that college students watching auto racing videos had higher stress levels as their bodies reacted as if what they were seeing was really happening to them.

This was with older, more sophisticated viewers who knew that what they were watching wasn’t real and that they were in no danger from the images on the television set. What happens to young children who haven’t yet learned to make this distinction between television and reality? Dr. Nejtek is planning further research into how exposure to violent media affects children.