Television-watching is a health risk

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It may be hard to believe that watching TV can damage our health, but there are many reasons that this is true. The obvious one is that time spent watching TV means less time spent doing physical activity, and inactivity is definitely very damaging to one’s health. Many people watch over four hours of television a day, and that is frequently in addition to sitting at work for eight hours! The more the TV time, the fatter we are. Childhood TV watching is clearly linked to childhood obesity.

Evening television disrupts sleep, as the light emitted from the television is too stimulating to our systems. So get that television out of the bedroom! Our night-time rest and repair hormones like melatonin don’t get activated if there is light flickering from the TV. And if you turn on the TV in the middle of the night, those ever-important-for-health hormones get shut off, unable to complete their overnight tasks of immune-system building and tissue repair. To get adequate repair time, we need 8 to 10 hours of complete darkness each night. Amazingly, the sleep cycles of children, even those under the age of 2, are disturbed by as little as an hour of TV a day. When children’s sleep schedules are disrupted, usually so are the parents. Poor sleep has real health consequences over time.

Television viewing is particularly unhealthy for children for a variety of reasons. Using a television set as a babysitter may seem easy and be extremely tempting, but it is important to remember that television is a form of mind control which can have a huge influence on the attitudes of children as they grow. Research has shown that children are very susceptible to television commercials, making them more materialistic than they otherwise would be, negatively affecting their food choices, making them more likely to smoke as teens and go into debt as adults, and increasing their reliance on pharmaceutical drugs. Watching television also tends to make kids more aggressive by desensitizing them to violence, and surprisingly, makes them more susceptible to injury, probably because they do not realize that an activity is risky after watching TV characters continually surviving incredibly risky behaviours.

Weaning oneself and the kids off TV is tough, but families that have managed don’t regret it. They have much more quality time with each other, improving their family relationships. They are healthier and happier, and the kids are better adjusted socially. So, either go cold turkey and get rid of the television sets in your home, or remove them from the bedrooms first, and then gradually decrease viewing times by planning other activities instead, until the TV is never on. Then get rid of it.

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Thompson, Darcy A. The Association Between Television Viewing and Irregular Sleep Schedules Among Children Less Than 3 Years of Age Pediatrics Vol. 116 No. 4 October 2005, pp. 851-856
Lumeng J. et al. Television Exposure and Overweight Risk in Preschoolers Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160:417-422.
Taheri S.The link between short sleep duration and obesity: we should recommend more sleep to prevent obesity
Archives of Disease in Childhood 2006;91:881-884;
Gidwani PP et al. Television viewing and initiation of smoking among youth Pediatrics 2002 Sep;110(3):505-8.
Dina L. G. Borzekowski and Thomas N. Robinson, The 30-Second Effect: An Experiment Revealing the Impact of Television Commercials on Food Preferences of Preschoolers Journal of the American Dietetic Association 101 (2001): 42–46.
Howard L. Taras and Miriam Gage, Advertised Foods on Children’s Television Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 149 (1995): 649–52
Committee on Public Education Children, Adolescents, and Television Pediatrics Vol. 107 No. 2 February 2001, pp. 423-426
Flaura Koplin Winston et al. Actions Without Consequences: Injury-Related Messages in Children’s Programs Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2000;154:366-369.
Glik D. et al. Unintentional injury depictions in popular children’s television programs Injury Prevention 2005;11:237-241

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7 Comments

  1. Ian said,

    February 14, 2007 @ 8:55 am

    Hi Vreni,

    OK, now you’ve done it. I have to change jobs! I have six TV screens two metres away, another two flat-screen computer monitors on my desk. Though I do computing at home as well, I avoid TV as much as possible and only use it to watch movies on DVD. We went a week without TV just a little while ago and it was great – we played games, told stories, caught up on reading, wonderful. It is a hard thing to cut out completely though.

  2. Vreni said,

    February 14, 2007 @ 3:15 pm

    Hi Ian!

    Yeah, I know what you mean. It is not like we are televisionless either. Apparently the average American family has 4 TVs in the house – a good start would be to bring that down to one! And one can’t deny that if programs are chosen carefully, television can be a great learning resource. Many homes just leave the TV on all day in the background, and I don’t think that is a way to improve a family’s health!

    Thanks for commenting, Ian!

    Vreni :)

  3. Ian said,

    February 15, 2007 @ 4:40 pm

    Hi Vreni,

    We actually have done pretty well keeping our TV’s presense as unobtrusive as possible. There is only one in the apartment and it is in a beautiful Chinese cabinet Karin bought in Hong Kong. You close the doors, you forget it’s there. We do have the possibility of watching via computer, but we only set that up rarely if at all.

    I also hate TV on vacation. If we rent a holiday apartment, one of the first things we do is place a tablecloth over it and stick a vase full of flowers on top!

    One thing I have to watch is too much computing. Can’t get around it now that I’m having a bit of fun blogging…

    Ian

  4. Brandon Harshe said,

    January 11, 2008 @ 1:34 am

    The only time I do watch TV is when the Phoenix Suns are playing. I’m working on not having to watch them all the time, but man, it’s tough.

  5. Sam said,

    February 3, 2008 @ 2:02 pm

    I watch tv all the time and nothing happens

  6. Sean Chua said,

    April 11, 2008 @ 1:27 am

    I was getting pretty edgy reading this. If I say I’m disagreeing with your post I would say nothing. Reading this is meaningless waste of time.

  7. Sue said,

    May 11, 2014 @ 12:18 pm

    The best time to ‘quit’ is probably during the summer since all the finales of your favorite shows would have aired by then! When the ‘season’ starts up again in the fall you’ll have forgotten what even happened! Worst time to stop – during the Olympics or FIFA World Cup – though those are probably ok to watch as it’s just for a couple of weeks. ;)

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