The brains of the infant, toddler and preschooler are genetically programmed to develop most effectively when exposed to an environment, which has remained essentially unchanged over the past tens of thousands of years.
During this period of our evolution, early childhood was characterized by specific types of social interaction, including language exposure, social experiences leading to an understanding of self-awareness and one’s role in society, as well as virtually limitless opportunities for physical play, imaginative play and creativity.
Learn more in Lifetime Benefits of Physical Activity
We now live in a society where these types of experiences, so critical for appropriate brain development, have been usurped by television and other electronic media.
In the United States, the average time television is on in the home each day approaches seven hours. We live in a society where the number of downloads or DVDs rented each day is six million, while only three million books are checked out of libraries.
The average U.S. household has 2.24 televisions, with 66 percent of U.S. homes having three or more televisions.
The typical American child spends 1680 minutes watching television each week, while more than 70 percent of day care centers also have the television playing during a typical day. The average American youth spends 900 hours in school each year, but watches 1500 hours of television.
By the time the typical American child finishes elementary school, he will have witnessed 8000 murders on television, while 79 percent of Americans feel that TV violence helps precipitate real-life violent behavior.
The average American child witnesses 20,000 30-second television commercials each year. Incredibly, 59 percent of Americans can name all three of The Three Stooges, while only 17 percent can name at least three Supreme Court justices.
The main areas of concern with reference to television and children are:
1. Time spent watching TV displaces other types of creative and imaginative activities.
2. Television watching discourages reading.
3. Television watching discourages exercise.
4. Television advertising increases demand for material possessions.
5. Exposure to violence on television can increase aggressive behavior in some children.
First and foremost, the most important issue with reference to children watching television is that the passive act of watching television displaces other activities in which the child could have been participating.
When a child is watching television, he or she is not involved in play, not socializing with other individuals and most importantly, not receiving feedback as to the actions or consequences of his or her behavior.
Television is a one-way street. According to Nielsen statistics, children between the ages of 2-5 years typically spend approximately 21.8 hours each week watching television. That works out to approximately three hours each day, or 25 percent of their time awake.
These are preschoolers, and this is the period of time when it is desperately important for these children to achieve significant milestones in mental development, physical development and perhaps most importantly, social development — that is, their ability to define and refine what constitutes socially appropriate behavior. This is achieved through interaction with others, including parents and caregivers, as well as other children, during play.
David Perlmutter, M.D., FACN is recognized internationally as a leader in the field of nutritional influences in neurological disorders. A board-certified neurologist, Dr. Perlmutter is the author of bestselling books including Power Up Your Brain: The Neuroscience of Enlightenment and The Better Brain Book .
Dr. Perlmutter has appeared on 20/20, Larry King Live, CNN, Fox News, Fox and Friends , the Today show, The Oprah Show, and The Early Show on CBS. He serves as medical director of the Perlmutter Health Center in Florida and is an adjunct instructor at the Institute for Functional Medicine.
How much television do you watch per day?
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