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Television: A One-Eyed Invader in the Bedroom

children, tv, television, kids, childMore than half of American children have a television in their bedroom; one study put the number at 70 percent. Meanwhile, a growing body of research shows strong links between a TV in the bedroom and numerous health and educational problems.

Children with TVs in their bedroom:
  • Score lower on school tests
  • Are more likely to have sleep problems
  • Are more likely to be overweight
  • May have an increased risk of smoking
Of course, children with TVs in their bedrooms are also more likely to watch more TV. One study of 80 children, found that a TV in the bedroom increased viewing time by nearly nine hours a week.

When researchers put monitoring devices on the televisions that reduced children’s viewing time by half (by not allowing the TV to turn on once the quota was reached), they found that:
  • Relative body mass index dropped
  • Children snacked less, consuming more than 100 calories less per day
Numerous other studies have also found links between health and mental problems and bedroom TVs. The advice to keep your child healthy? Ban the TV from their bedroom.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
TVs should not be kept in your child’s bedroom, if for no other reason than to make sure you’re monitoring what they are watching. But whether in the bedroom or not, no child who is under 3 should be watching any TV at all.

Before the age of 3, children's brains go through rapid development and are being physically shaped in response to whatever they are exposed to. Exposing children to fast-moving images like television for sustained periods at this time can inhibit their ability to sustain attention, and hinder their development of social skills.

Allowing children under 3 to watch television has been found to impair their linguistic and social development, and also put them at risk of health problems including attention-deficit disorder, autism and obesity.

Research suggests that television can also cause irregular sleep patterns for infants and toddlers, and decrease their resting metabolic rate, which compounds the physiological problems that come with lack of exercise.

Yet, an astonishing 90 percent of American children under age 2 -- and as much as 40 percent of babies under 3 months old -- watch TV, videos and DVDs regularly. Based on a 2007 survey of families in two states, kids at 3 months watched less than an hour of TV daily, and that viewing time climbed as children reached the toddler stage to 90 minutes.

It’s the Medium That’s the Problem, Not the Message

Much of the TV debate focuses on advertising messages and violent or sexually explicit programming, and their impacts on young minds. And while these certainly can be damaging, it turns out that TV may be harmful no matter what your kids are watching.

Dr. Aric Sigman, a British psychologist, analyzed 35 different scientific studies on television and its effect on the viewer. He found the damage comes not from the TV programs themselves, but from the vast amount of time kids are spending watching television and computer screens. This activity produces an almost narcotic effect on your brain, actually numbing areas that would be stimulated by other activities, like reading.

Watching TV also disrupts the production of the hormone melatonin, according to Dr. Sigman, which could be playing a role in sleep disturbances and even causing early puberty in adolescents.

The 15 Side Effects of Watching TV

Through his research, Dr. Sigman has identified 15 negative effects that he believes can be blamed on watching television. They are:

1. Obesity
2. Trouble healing
3. Heart trouble
4. Decreased metabolism
5. Eyesight damage
6. Alzheimer’s disease
7. Decreased attention span
8. Hormone disturbances
9. Cancer
10. Early puberty
11. Autism
12. Sleep difficulties
13. Increased appetite
14. Limited brain growth
15. Diabetes

Watching TV also has a major impact on your brain chemistry. In fact, the longer you watch, the easier your brain slips into a receptive, passive mode, meaning that messages are streamed into your brain without any participation from you. This is an advertiser’s dream.

Meanwhile, violent images on TV stimulate your body’s “fight or flight” response to stress, but since you know that the threat is not real, you suppress it. This engages your brain in a constant mode of impulse and suppression, and when you turn off the TV, all of this built up impulse must be released. This is one reason why television has been blamed for behavioral disorders like ADHD.

On top of that, television is filled with rapid imagery that does not exist in the real world. And when you watch enough of it, it makes real life seem ordinary, which is very sad.

My Advice for Parents?

Get the TV out of your child’s bedroom, and strictly limit their watching time altogether. And, while you’re at it, get the TV out of your bedroom as well. I suspect you and your family will begin to experience the benefits of better sleep and more almost immediately.