Screen Time in Adolesence

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What effect does television time have on a child in middle childhood?
One aspect of a growing child’s environment is the media. Computers, television, and video games are in many homes and available to children on a daily basis. Television is constantly touted as having a negative impact in a child’s life, but there are some positive aspects to some screen time as well.

There has been much research into the negative effects of television. Television has been linked to aggressive behavior for over fifty years. In the 1960s, Albert Bandura did experiments to test the effects of televised violence on children’s behavior. In these experiments, children imitated adults’ violent treatment of an inflatable clown after watching it happen on film (Bandura, Ross & Ross, 1961, 1963).

More recent research suggests that watching violent television at a young age may result in violent behavior as a young adult (Huesmann, et al., 2003). Brain imaging studies suggest that long term effects may be the result of patterns of neural activation that trigger emotionally laden behavioral scripts that children learn when watching violent programming (Murray et al., 2006). These patterns of neural activation also explains the finding that repeated viewing of violent programming leads to emotional desensitization regarding violence and to the belief that physical aggression is an appropriate way to solve problems (Van Mierlo & Van den Bulck, 2004).

Television has also had some positive effects on children. Programs designed to teach and encourage racial tolerance have shown positive effects on school aged children, in both their attitude and behavior (Shochat 2003). Science programs such as The Magic School Bus and Bill Nye the Science Guy have been shown to be effective teaching tools (Calvert & Kotler, 2003). There is educational and appropriate television available, as research has shown.

When choosing to let your child watch television, the most...
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