Should we be putting tv’s in children’s bedrooms?

Should we be putting tv’s in children’s bedrooms?

Is it wise to put a tv or a video game device, like the PlayStation or Xbox, in a child’s bedroom? What do the experts say?

After just a brief examination, one discovers that psychologists are against it for various reasons.

Let's see what they are.

Why would it be better to not put a tv in the bedroom?

This was the final answer from an Iowa State University study, led by psychologist Douglas Gentile, a specialist who been analyzing young children on matters such as this for quite some time.

The study took place over six months to two years and is published in an issue of the journal Developmental Psychology.

Looking at the study’s results, it looks as though having a tv in the bedroom is not the same as having one in the living room.

First, easy access to the device would cause individuals to watch more of it. As a result, children would sleep, read, and play less.

The temptation to turn on the tv instead of doing something else becomes much stronger if it's "always on" and the parents don’t monitor it.

There are also greater risks of obesity, difficulty sleeping, and worse academic performance.

Moreover, the danger of screen addiction increases – especially for video games.

Free access to tv: can children handle this responsibility?

Children and teens who have a tv or other electronics in their bedrooms are more "autonomous" in the management of which programs they watch. As a result, according to the study, children tend to watch more violent programs as they are left to decide for themselves what to watch. The same would happen with video games. In turn, becoming more aggressive themselves.

"Putting a tv in a child’s bedroom means giving them free access to it, 24 hours a day, and, in a way, privatizing it. The parents would have less control over how their child uses it," Professor Gentile points out.

Similar studies show that giving children this autonomy increases the number of hours they spend in front of a screen over time… we’ve seen numbers as high as 60 hours a week.

Learning disorders and increased calorie intake: two "side effects" of tv

Italian data is not that different from American data.

In Italy, 44% of 8-year-olds have a tv in their room – almost half of them. And the average number of hours spent in front of a screen is more than three.

According to OKkio alla salute of the Italian National Institute of Health (Istituto Superiore di Sanità), the prevalence of overweight kids and child obesity in Italy is hitting disturbing numbers, and this problem is somehow linked to the spread of improper eating habits and sedentary lifestyles. Among these behaviors, time spent in front of the television is also reported in their literature.

Children who watch tv for hours have a greater risk of putting on excess weight and, moreover, may develop learning and concentration disorders.

If television encourages a sedentary lifestyle, obesity is also linked to another phenomenon – an increase in the caloric intake during these moments of inactivity. Children are more likely to eat when they watch tv because they aren’t working on something.

In terms of behavioral risk factors, excessively watching tv is, again, associated with the presence of a tv in their own bedrooms.

Limit time in front of the tv, both in the bedroom and elsewhere

Television: a Bad Teacher was the title of an essay written by philosopher Karl Popper in 1994. We can agree with him that we don’t know how to limit our use of the tv.

In addition to the importance of choosing the programs we watch wisely, recent experience also shows that limiting the time children spend watching tv results in the reduction of their body mass index – correlated with a decreased intake of calories. Experiments conducted in the United States show that, by actively involving families, it’s possible to limit the time children spend watching television to the recommended two hours.

Watching tv should be one of many daily activities, not the main activity of the day.

It would be nice to consider watching tv as an activity we do together. Watching a movie or a show as a family in the living room, even chatting while watching it, can bring us together; conversely, being alone in a room with your own tv can be disruptive.

In any case, if, for some valid reason, it’s necessary to have a tv in the kid’s bedroom – for example, if the child is chronically ill – it’s good to always manage the amount of time it’s left on, to be vigilant about what the child is watching, and to understand when the electronics have created a distance between the child and others, or caused other problems. The solution to many issues can often be found in balance and quantity.

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