How media impacts preschoolers

A child who watches an average of two hours a day will have watched approximately 3,000 hours by age six. The average American preschooler (between the ages of two and six) watches 28 hours of television a week, an average of four hours a day. That means that many preschoolers spend about one-third of their day sitting in front of a TV.

First Four to Six Months

Much of a child's vision develops in the first four to six months. Children need a flood of stimulation to develop their vision. However, this "flood" should not come from television. TV provides no time for reflection, interaction, or three-dimensional visual development. TV moves at a fast pace, allows the eyes no time to relax, and is a poor replacement for relationship-building time.

Better stimulation for development comes from parents talking to babies, speaking in short sentences, and pointing out objects around them. Infants whose parents talk to them more frequently and use concrete words will develop better language skills.

Age Two to Age Six

The years from age two to six are the "formative years" years during which a child is discovering, developing, and strengthening skills needed to become a creative, competent person. When watching TV, a child is most likely doing nothing but watching. This state of "nothingness" can inhibit the development of initiative, curiosity, resourcefulness, creativity, motivation, imagination, reasoning and problem-solving abilities, communication skills, social skills, fine and gross motor skills, and eye-hand coordination.

TV contributes to shorter attention spans and decrease in play and discovery. Likewise, the development of a long attention span is impeded. Equally important, during this period of development is play. Play is the natural form of exercise needed by preschoolers. Play is the best preparation a child can make for school. By playing, children are actively learning how their world works.

Violence and the Evening News

The amount of violence presented on TV is of major concern to both parents and teachers. Children are born with an instinctive capacity and desire to imitate adult behaviors-even as young as fourteen months. Preschoolers are definitely not ready to watch TV news. Studies in brain development cause some developmentalists to encourage that the preschooler not be introduced to TV at all.

Keep in mind that no other single influence has so dramatically altered the nature of childhood in the last 40 years than the television. TV is definitely here to stay, so parents need to discover how to use it appropriately, as a resource or tool, and not as a menace or threat.

Reducing the Impact

The National Institute on Media and the Family ( was created to provide information about media products and their likely impact on children to parents and other adults so they can make informed choices. Here are some things you can do to reduce TV's impact on your child. Visit this Web site for more tips.

  • Avoid using TV as a babysitter.
  • Know what your kids are watching.
  • Keep TV out of kids' bedrooms.
  • Set some guidlines about when and what children watch.
  • Talk to your child about what he or she is watching.
  • Turn TV off during meals.
  • Don't make TV the focal point of the room.

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