Television Viewing Time

by Ren Chats

Screen Addiction

Screen Addiction

All over the world, television viewing is a common pastime in most of the families.

With the awareness of adverse effects excessive television viewing on childhood development, parents have successfully reduced children’s direct TV screen time to about 90 minutes per day.

However, background television exposure and other multimedia screen have escaped their attention.

Effects of background television

Background television exposure often starts within hours of birth: With televisions sets in mother’s room, children are being exposed to colorful flickering lights on the screen from very early age.

Many parents intentionally expose children to television programs in hope of extra stimulus; as a source of entertainment for their infants and toddlers. They take a sigh of relief when colorful dancing images on TV screen tell stories and sing nursery rhymes to their toddlers. The thought does not even cross their mind that this could be the beginning of their child’s addiction to the screen.

Moreover, very often television is carelessly left on even when no one is actually watching it. The background sounds and lights fill up children’s environment, and children learn from what they see and hear in their environment!

Growing concern

Though the effects of background television exposure on children are not precisely concluded, there is a growing concern that the adverse effects could be same as direct television watching.

Studies have shown that on an average, children between 8mo. - 8yr. of age are being exposed to pervasive influence of background television for about 4 hours per day over and above that of direct television watching.

Bed time and meal time are the key points during the child’s day when the pervasive influence of environmental sounds and images are known to leave a lasting effect.

Younger the age more pronounced is the negative impact of background television on childhood development, which is usually seen as poor cognitive and psycho-social development.

• Visual impairment:
Children develop the ability to see after birth during first 3 years of life, which is further refined untill 9 years of age. The images in child's environment through neuronal plasticity influence appropriate brain growth and normal visual sensory system development.

Images on television are fast moving and interrupted. Disruption of actions impede children's ability to focus the images. Bizarre inputs are thereby sent to the growing brain that distort children's cognitive development.
Children can neither hold the images on the screen, nor can they explore them by putting them in their mouth; crucial part of eyes to hand coordination development.

• School related learning difficulties

• Reduced attention span

• Disturbed sleep pattern

• Poor social skills

• Impaired ability to express empathy

• Risk for childhood obesity:
Biological changes that are induced due to sedentary lifestyle during childhood are feared not to reverse on exercising at a later date.

• Increased risks of markers for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

• Aggressive behavior :
In a study by Nicole Martins and Barbara J. Wilson, it was documented that 92 percent of the most popular 50 television programs commonly viewed by children between 2-11 years of age screen social bullying in variety of ways.

• Psychosocial problems like Facebook depression and cyber bullying are associated with excess screen time.

Screen addiction

Though negative impacts on child health have been documented with crossing of 2 hours limit, studies show that an average teenager spends 6 to 8 hours per day in front of screen; TV, video games, smart phones, laptops and i-pads. Most children today have an easy excess to them by 10 years of age, leading to dependence on various media and entertainment screens.

“Dopamine has a key role in the ability to pay attention, and is produced in response to screen novelty. It is also a key component of the brain’s reward system and implicated in addictive behaviour," says Dr Sigman.


1. Borzekowski DL, Robinson TN. The remote, the mouse, and the no. 2 pencil: the household media environment and academic achievement among third grade students. Arch Pediatr Adoles Med. 2005; 159(7):607–613

2. Owens J, Maxim R, McGuinn M, Nobile C, Msall M, Alario A. Television-viewing habits and sleep disturbance in school children. Pediatrics. 1999;104(3).
Available at:

3. Dennison BA, Erb TA, Jenkins PL. Television viewing and television in bedroom associated with overweight risk among low income preschool children. Pediatrics. 2002;109(6):1028–1035

4. Mean on the Screen: Social Aggression in Programs Popular With Children, By Nicole Martins and Barbara J. Wilson; Journal of Communication DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2011.01599.x International Communication Association

5. A Sigman. Time for a view on screen time. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 2012; DOI: 10.1136/archdischild- 2012-302196

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