Average US Child Watches Four
Hours Of TV Each Day Of Life

By Maggie Fox
Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The temptation is everywhere -- glitzy music videos, funny sitcoms, dramatic movies. But when even cartoons are violent, and the commercials shown in-between, how can parents protect their children?
Short of getting rid of the television set, experts advise, sit down and watch the programs with them.
"Parents being with their children while they are watching is always a good thing," Jeffrey Johnson of Columbia University in New York, whose study linking hours of television watched with violence later in life will be published on Friday, said in a telephone interview.
Johnson's study, published in the journal Science, finds that children who watched more than an hour of TV a day, on average, were four times more likely than children who watch less television to commit aggressive acts.
Johnson says all kinds of programs are to blame, because even something that seems innocuous to an adult will look violent to a child. "Even if it is something like 'The Wizard of Oz' -- some children can be traumatized by things that wouldn't seem traumatic to an adult," Johnson said.
Parents probably cannot bar their children from watching such shows but should start an early habit of watching alongside, Johnson said.
"They can help the children to understand and help answer some of their questions," he said. "The recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics are sound -- they are that parents shouldn't let their children watch more than one to two hours of TV a day."
The average child watches four hours of television a day, according to the New York University Child Study Center.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association all agree that violence in the media is related to aggression in real life.
This includes the news, Johnson said.
"One thing I did find of great concern was that when I learned that the networks were repeatedly showing the images of the planes crashing into the (World Trade Center) towers (on September 11) ... and that they only stopped when some of the family's victims pleaded with them to stop," he said.
"That was indicative to me of the problem that we have. If it bleeds, it leads. That is the problem. Someone in a position of responsibility needs to think about the consequences of repeatedly airing events that could traumatize the nation."
Craig Anderson, a psychologist at Iowa State University who wrote a commentary on Johnson's report, said he doubted this would happen.
"The media entertainment industries have a vested interest in denying to the general public, to elected officials, and even to themselves the possibility that their products might cause harmful effects in a significant portion of the population, much as the tobacco industry has a vested interest in denying harmful effects of their products," Anderson said in an interview conducted by e-mail.
But he said parents can fight back by educating their children.
"It appears that one needs to teach children that:
* What they see is neither real nor realistic
* That real aggression really does hurt people, their families
* That aggressive solutions are not acceptable
* That they should try to figure out possible solutions to viewed problems that are nonviolent, cooperative, helpful
* That aggression by 'good guys' against 'bad guys' is also unacceptable
* That watching violent material does hurt them," Anderson suggested.
"The best way to teach this is for parents to watch the shows with their children and to discuss these issues as they arise. This is particularly important when the children are allowed to watch anything that contains violence in it, including Saturday morning cartoons and Disney movies, as well as the more obvious violent TV programs."
Johnson said there is another incentive to limit TV watching, noting that many studies show a clear link between an epidemic of obesity and hours spent watching television.
Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Email This Article


This Site Served by TheHostPros