|MadSci Network: Neuroscience|
Well, there is a plethora of scientific reports as well as "lay" articles
on this matter (if the reference list provided is any indicator).
I gathered most information either from aPubMed search or by
News-Media Biology News
Database for 'television AND children'.
Most articles focus on the influence of televised violence on childrens' (aggressive) behavior, their cognitive and school performance, as well as health issues. It seems as if television viewing is rather detrimental to the developing mind in providing only passive input and a somewhat contorted view of reality, e.g. showing violent acts but not their consequences. In addition, playing time spent outdoors is reduced in favor of watching TV. This reduced physical activity plus an inappropriate diet often lead to children being overweight or in bad shape.
I won't comment on the articles in detail since they speak for themselves. In addition, most of the Web pages cited provide plenty of links to other related pages.
The references are grouped into the following categories:
A longitudinal study investigated the extent to which children's exposure to aggressive and prosocial television models in drama programmes influences their aggressive and prosocial behaviour. In The Netherlands we did not find significant positive correlations between prosocial behaviour and the viewing of prosocial behaviour on television. Positive correlations were found, however, between aggression and television violence viewing. This relationship disappeared almost completely when corrections for the starting level of aggression and intelligence were applied. The hypothesis, formulated on the basis of social learning theory, that television violence viewing leads to aggressive behaviour could not be supported. Our findings are further discussed and compared with the results found in the other countries participating in the international study.
As we have indicated, children's television has either a documented or probable effect on a variety of health-related behaviors in children and adolescents in the United States. Studies of cognitive development indicate that television provides a stimulus for learning and that children learn from television. The adverse effects of television appear related to both the time spent watching television and the content of the programs that are viewed. The reviewed observations suggest that a variety of initiatives are warranted to alter the time children spend watching television, the content of programs, and the types of programs for children and adolescents that are produced and broadcast. These initiatives require the development of effective techniques and materials for counseling parents, as well as continued political and legislative activities at the local and national level. We must promote the conviction that time spent in activities other than television viewing will provide our children with the values necessary to understand and interact with an increasingly complex world. Effective governmental action on behalf of children to change television will require a reaffirmation and enforcement of the Public Interest Standard. For half a century, the broadcast media have been licensed to use the airwaves in the public interest. The diversity and magnitude of the adverse effects of television on the health of children strongly suggest that the use of television has not been in the public interest. Although cable television offers multiple alternatives, less than 60% of American households receive cable. Broadcast television still represents the only alternative for 40% of American children. Substantial regulatory change by the current administration is unlikely. Therefore, legislative activity to mandate broadcast practices responsive to the needs of children appears the most appropriate national approach. [References: 206]
Understanding the impact of TV on children's diet and physical activity is important for developing strategies to prevent obesity and sedentary lifestyles. Determining parents' perceptions of television's influence on children's dietary intake and physical activity may provide useful information on this important topic. A questionnaire was developed to assess viewing habits and child requests for food and sport items advertised on TV. It was administered to 66 mothers of children, ages 3-8. Foods that children requested because they had seen them on TV paralleled the frequencies with which these foods were advertised on TV. Weekly viewing hours correlated significantly with (a) reported requests by children and purchases by parents of foods influenced by TV, and (b) children's caloric intake. Children's requests for sport items and physical activities were not significantly correlated with the number of hours of TV viewing. It appears from these data that parents perceive that television influences family purchasing patterns through the mechanism of their children's requests.
The findings from 20 field experiments were examined to determine the short-term effects of viewing aggression-laden television shows on child social behavior. The available literature provides little support for an effect that is peculiar to aggressive content. In fact, although almost all studies showed elevated levels of antisocial behavior following the viewing of similar material, they also revealed similar, and sometimes greater, effects in response to low or nonaggressive fare. These findings are discussed with regard to their clinical relevance for preventive medicine and implications for imposing "wholesome" television programming on child viewers.
The average child born today will, by age 15, have spent more time watching television than going to school. Research has shown that heavy doses of TV violence viewing are associated with the development of aggressive attitudes and behavior. TV viewing also appears to cultivate stereotypic views of gender roles and race. Finally, television commercials often capitalize on children's naivete, and also can foster and reinforce overly materialistic attitudes. All of these adverse effects can be minimized if parents restrict the amount of overall viewing, encourage some programs and discourage others, and talk to children frequently about the meaning of what they see on television.
Television has a major impact on children's knowledge, attitudes, and behavior. Research has demonstrated the association between television viewing and four areas: (1) children's aggressive behavior; (2) racial and sex-role stereotypes; (3) decreased interest in reading and school activities; and (4) poorer health habits and attitudes. Methodological limitations make it difficult to draw firm conclusions about a causal relationship between television viewing and children's behavior. Representative studies in these four areas are reviewed, important methodological concerns are pointed out, and conclusions from the research findings are drawn. The implications of the data for pediatricians and other health professionals are discussed. [References: 44]
Television has earned considerable public and academic criticism in recent years for the alleged bias in its sex-role content. A fundamental concern of many critics is with the representation of male and female roles that confronts children. This paper reviews the evidence accumulating from numerous content analyses of both adult and children's television. Overall, the evidence confirms that there are marked differences in the ways the medium presents the sexes. These differences are both quantitative and qualitative but the general pattern at either level is to present males as dominant and females as nurturant and complementary. Some qualifications, exceptions and gaps in the literature are discussed. The paper is the first of a three-part review series of television and sex-role acquisition: the subsequent papers will review respectively the effects of sex-stereotyped TV content upon children and the prospects for counter-stereotyped programmes aiming to modify young viewers' beliefs and attitudes. [References: 31]
Television plays an important role in the lives of children, and for some a larger role than that of parents and schools. There are many educational, social, and recreational benefits gained from viewing television for persons of all ages. Detrimental effects, however, are also possible, especially if the viewer lacks the knowledge or emotional maturity to place a program in its proper perspective. Debate has centered on whose responsibility it is to provide children with this understanding and perspective, so that television's benefits outweigh its detriments. This article reviews current research on the amount of television viewing by children, their reasons for doing so, and their understanding of what they see on television. The relationship is discussed between this understanding and the positive and negative effects of certain types of programs and advertisements. Suggestions for educational interventions by parents and teachers are provided.
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Neuroscience.