Negative Affects of the Television on Children’s Psyche

Today, television is so firmly established in the daily life, that neither adults nor children already can imagine life without its screen. It is gradually becoming the most important factor in the socialization of most children, and one of the leading sources of mental development from the earliest age (Rapping, 2003). TV acts as a “window” to the outside world , from which the child draws information long before the formal education. Childhood is the most intense period of formation of the inner world and the construction of identity. The age of early childhood and preschool (6-7 years old) is the period of the origin and formation of the most common basic abilities. When the TV screen absorbs all energy and attention of the child, and becomes a substitute for playing, action and communication with close adults, it certainly has a powerful distorting influence on the formation of mentality and personality of the growing person. Meanwhile this paper will not cover physical damage of the TV – radiation, waves, etc., it will focus on the issue why watching television is harmful, both for children and many adults for reasons of psychological safety.

Abuse watching of television programs is harmful to children’s psyche (Sachs). Spending their time in front of TV, the children receives less physical activity, suffers from a lack of motor activity that directly affects the development of physical qualities, motor skills, and development of cognitive mental processes. Adults sufficiently naively believe that the child understands the events occurring on the screen analogously to them. However, data of the developmental psychology is indisputable evidence to the contrary. The first years of life (3-4 years) is the period of the most active vivo formation of brain structures. The child experiences the world not by the mind, but by the whole body and all the senses: the more he moves, touches, looks at things from different angles, the more s/he learns (Huesmann, Rowell & Eron, 2013).


The events which he or she sees on the screen do not coincide with the actual experience of the child, literally tearing the sensory tissue that connects him or her with the world. This means that the perception of the child is split into two areas. The first is the sphere of the natural activity of sensory perception of the world, which are formed on the basis of the relevant structures of the brain. The second is the sphere of passive acceptance of television, which is due to discrepancies with children’s perception of screen images creates unnatural brain structures that prevent normal mental development (Huesmann, Rowell & Eron, 2013).

Older preschoolers’ and primary school children’ thinking is not so much connected with the organs of perception, but it still remains a specific, illustrative, and most importantly – a dependent. Noncritical and imaginative thinking are the psychological characteristics of children of pre-adolescent age, which make them particularly sensitive to television exposure (Huesmann, Rowell & Eron, 2013).Children aged 4-5 years old love to watch fighters,  play “shooters” and refuse to read fairy tales, saying that it is not interesting to them. Contemporary Western art changes distorts the psyche of the child. Of course, first of all, we are talking about cartoons and TV shows (for example, those cartoons like Pokémon, SpongeBob). Adversely affecting the child’s imagination, they give new attitudes and behaviors. The first thing that should be mentioned is the aggressiveness of the characters. It is possible to can track a sufficient set of scenes disrespectful, impunity attitude towards people, animals, and plants. 

Educational effect of these cartoons will be revealed shortly, and firstly the parents will observe these consequences in the form of hate speech, indecent gestures, brutality, and ruthlessness. In addition, in a short period of time the brain receives unrealistic for ordinary viewing amount of visual information. It sends signals to the nervous system about the overload, and it is trying to stabilize the body, causing a variety of nerve impulses and reactions. These reactions of the overloaded nervous system could be tics, enuresis, hyperactivity, affective reactions (Chrislip, 2005). 

Based on these statements, some parents could prefer the cartoons and shows without the scenes of violence and brutality.their counter argument is that good and kind cartoons can teach the child the right patterns of behavior. According to this argument, these cartoons can instill good character traits to the child, show correct examples to follow, help to develop compassion, kindness, and other positive qualities. However, such cartoons and shows also have a great negative impact on children’s development. Good and kind cartoons, movies, and shows are also harmful for child’s consciousness due to the several reasons.

Development of perception is affected with the TV watching abuse. At preschool age, and partly in the early school years, the work of visual perception depends on the kinesthetic and tactile feelings. When viewing any cartoons, shows, presentations, films, these two channels are completely inactive. Therefore, the perception may not fully develop (Scannell, 2014).

The accumulation of experience of perception is another aspect which is negatively affected by TV shows and cartoons. In the future, the child will be based on past experience of perception, creating visual images in the brain (presentation) and graphics (figures). On the TV screen, the item is flat; the basic parameters of the subject are absent. Thus, the accumulated experience can not serve as a basis for creating child’s own images. The child can only copy what he or she see (Scannell, 2014). This is clearly evident from the drawings of children: if they are asked to draw a cartoon, they will try to convey the exact copy.

The development of the brain can not go in the correct way due to watching TV. The main development of brain structures is completed by 6-7 years. At the 6-year-old child, the brain reaches 2/3 of the size of the brain of an adult, but it has in 5-7 times more nerve connections between neurons. A brain of a 6-year-old child can form thousands of dendritic connections between neurons. Such connections are formed and secured by vigorous activity. Not strengthen nervous connections disappear to 10-11 years. In the nerve cells of the brain, an enzyme that destroys all insufficiently myelinated nerve connections appears (Berry, 2014).

For processing information in the brain, TV is harmful. The brain can not develop fully if it is deprived of the basic information from the tactile and kinesthetic channels. These impulses also influence the construction of visual and auditory images. For example, re-examining the real object, the child notes more and more of its properties each time and the brain establishes a new necessary connection. The level of understanding increases since the process of perception is active and it affects the mental activity. When watching TV shows, a child can not consciously perceive what he saw on the different and qualitatively new level. Thus, neurons do not operate, and mental operations do not develop during the period of the greatest activity and the fastest growth of the brain (Berry, 1993).

Passive activities and the habit of “escape in a different reality” is forming with watching TV.  Children get used to a passive activity that may cause cravings for more dangerous amusements in the distant future. Accustoming the child to receive pleasure, doing nothing, or experiencing vivid emotions in a passive position, parents can provoke him or her to apply to psychotropic drugs at a later age.

Sensory standards are formed in childhood. Preschool childhood is a period of accumulation in the brain of sensory standards and the role models. Assimilating fake, painted images, the child loses the ability to build a correct view of reality. By the end of the preschool period, the formation of children’s worldview is ended as well. In the observation of the real object (a mountain, a crane, etc.) the child forms a spatial representation, the sense of volume, and so forth, even if it is not possible to examine it (Ryan & Macey, 2013). When viewing three-dimensional images it does not happen. It is also important to consider that the pre-school child has no awareness of the illusory nature of perception. That is, the child thinks the house in the distance is small. Watching television only reinforces this quality, preventing the development of a correct perception of space. Especially harmful for perception are macro close, diverse shooting and other operator tricks.

Alternation of vigorous activity and understanding of experience is absent. For the child, it is extremely important to receive impressions, but not less these impressions need to be carefully processed. The more the impressions are processed, the more links between them are established. Very often parents are afraid that the child receives not enough amount of experience. However, for the brain the quality of information is more important than its quantity. Superficial perception (many objects) and the decline in the value of individual experiences have a negative impact on speech and thinking (Ryan & Macey, 2013).

Speech is also affected by TV watching abuse. It is the most potent factor that is detrimental to the development of speech in children. Children learn to speak only communicating with people, not with TV. Their brain does not process the television sounds with the same intensity as the conversation with a living person. In addition, television is a “point” source of the sound, but in reality, the sounds have volume. Children do not learn to concentrate on the sound. Children who are accustomed to sounds from the TV often suffer from attention deficit disorders and auditory perception. In games with peers, the speech of the children becomes scarce. It is limited to exclamations like those which cold be found in comics, disjointed fragments of phrases and ridiculous imitations of noises accompanied by the robotic movements (Van Evra, 2004).

It is known that the best way to experience the world for children is game. Children’s game is historically arisen kind of activity consisting in replaying the actions of adults and relations between them in a special form of conditional by children. The game is the leading activity of the preschool child. Mainly due to such activity the changes in the psyche of the child occur. Also, the mental processes that prepare the child’s transition to a new, higher stage of its development are developed within the game. A well-chosen game in moderate amounts is the best option for the child. After all, there are lots of special games aimed at the development of intelligence, memory, motor skills. The most important thing is to establish a clear time frame. For the preschooler, it is 25-30 minutes (Simpson, 2004). After this time, there comes fatigue, and the child loses the skills learned during the game. After three hours in front of the screen more profound fatigue comes, and after five hours serious threat to mental exhaustion appears. Obviously, not all TV shows are useful. Brutal scenes with violence are not appropriate content for the child. The fact that the children can hardly distinguish real and virtual life was noted. Excessive passion for watching TV shows leads to the fact that children cease to fantasize. They are hard to summarize and analyze information; some kinds of memory operate worse.

The practice of requests for psychological help shows that adults (parents and teachers) are more concerned about the children’ computer games abuse than watching TV (Van Evra, 2004). However, TV  is more dangerous at least because the position in conjunction with the mentioned multimedia devices is different: playing computer games, the child is active, he is competing with the machine, meanwhile being near the TV screen he or she is completely passive.

Available studies on the effects of TV exposure for physical and mental development of the child can be summarized as follows:

  • The deterioration of vision: watching TV is not natural activity to this sense organ;
  • The deterioration of physical development: immobility is harmful to the child’s body;
  • The deterioration of brain function: the child loses the ability of imagination and creative thinking because he gets used to the fact that ready information is coming from outside;
  • The deterioration in school performance: regular TV viewing leads to the fact that the child thinks by templates, show shallow interest in the subjects, absolutely is not attracted by reading, but likes viewing pictures (comics);
  • Personalistic deformation: outspoken consumer position is formed because the child gets used to enjoy without actually doing any work. During adolescence, these young consumers are in very high risk of addictive variants of deviant behavior, which by their psychological essence are very close to TVmania: pleasing result with a minimum of effort.

In recent years the number of children who are able to perceive only visual information being unable to understand verbal instructions has increased dramatically. In the school, the children who abused watching the television programs have great difficulty with the change of the usual visual perception on the verbal (auditory). After all, not a TV teaches them, but the teacher, meanwhile they are not able to hear and thus to understand. Thus, the opinion of experts rather unequivocally: TV is harmful to the physical and mental health of children, therefore, it should play the role in a child’s life only at 14-15 years old when the basic cycles of maturation are completed.

Today, school as one of the leading institutions of socialization of the child, obviously begins to lose compete with TV for the formation of the child’s consciousness. The teachers, working with children of different ages, are concerned that children do not want to read, they do not know how to listen, they can not focus, they speak a different language, etc. However, as the research shows, the teachers associate problems of today’s children with TV. When they were asked what is the role of the TV screen in a child’s life the teachers gave answers as follows:

  • Assimilation of patterns of behavior (crime, aggression);
  • Deterioration of health;
  • Entertainment;
  • A source of information (means of knowledge);
  • Replacement of the computer (Thompson and Mittell, 2013). 

Also, some individual responses indicated a direct impact on child development: negative (“destruction of the child’s mind with scenes of violence and depravity,” “imposition of lifestyles and thoughts”, “picture is not thought-provoking”) and positive (“the way of development of speech”, “expansion outlook “) (Thompson and Mittell, 2013).  

Thus, in the responses of teachers the position of adult self-centeredness or naive realism is traced. According toit,  the adult attributed the child his own way of world perception, believing at first that his (adult) perception of reality is objectively true and, secondly that others think the same way as he does. This suggests that teachers need psychoeducation about the physiological effects and the mechanisms of the body and their consequences for the child’s development at different stages of ontogenesis. Without these basics, the teacher can not effectively carry out their professional duties.

In the late 60s of the twentieth century, in western Europe, the activists of the movement for children’s television concluded that the TV acts as the main teacher of modern children. However, as a rule, its lessons are organized badly, and psychological care for the health and development of children does not fit into the laws of the market. Due to the increasing commercialization of the television, the shows even for the youngest children are clogged since, according to the laws of the market, the main task of manufacturers of television programs is not development, education of the child, but accustom him or her to the TV. Today, with the development of technology, more and more children grow into the market culture perceived it through TV pictures.

No one denies the importance of television programs as entertainment, as well as possibility to expand the horizons of our children. Everything is good in moderation, and TV shows as well. Excessive abuse of television programs is harmful to children. TV with its prevalence of visual information in itself adversely affects children. Even children’s programs are often quite far from reality. The fast frame rates do not give the child the possibility to trace the course of action. TV shows are often stereotyped, and, therefore, do not encourage a child to develop their own imagination and creativity. TV screen not only prevents the formation of speech and articulation. It blocks and spontaneous, creative play and natural movement, not giving children incentives, much-needed for the formation of motor skills and senses. The lack of variety of ranging irritation coming from surrounding word can lead to a deficiency in the formation of brain functions. Creativity, imagination, and intelligence are affected. Children do not make an effort to invent new games and create your own imaginary world.

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