Entertainment

TV Watching Lowers Kids’ Self-Esteem, Indiana University Study States

Tue., Jun. 26, 2012 11:13 AM EDT
by Terry Shropshire

Lounging in front of the TV at hours on end has proven to be damaging to black kids, particularly boys

As we suspected, spending large chunks of time in front of the television has a detrimental mental effect on all children except white males, a new university research states.

Indiana University found that TV watching alters and lowers a child’s self esteem. Black boys and white girls have a tendency to feel worse about themselves in the aftermath of viewing certain types of programming. Conversely, the same amount of TV viewing actually increases self esteem for white boys, the study concludes.

The study’s findings were derived from studying 400 black and white preadolescents in the Midwest over the course of one year. Professors Nicole Martins and Kristen Harrison focused on the correlation between total time spent watching TV and self esteem, rather than the impact of certain types of programming. They found watching more TV negatively affected self-esteem for all children, except white males.

“Regardless of what show you’re watching, if you’re a white male, things in life are pretty good for you,” Martins said in a release. “You tend to be in positions of power, you have prestigious occupations, high education, glamorous houses, a beautiful wife, with very little portrayals of how hard you worked to get there.”

The study also concluded the following:

  • Female children have a hard time finding a diversity of roles for women on television.
  • Black boys are worse off, the study says. Black men, of course, are often portrayed as criminals, are often in subservient roles and are portrayed as lacking intelligence.
  • Compounding the problem for all black children is this:  African American preadolescents on average watched 10 more hours of TV per week than their white counterparts. So not only are black children getting damaging messages shoved into their heads, it’s being done in much higher quantities than any other demographic in the nation.
  • African American children, says a researcher at the University of Cincinnati, are watching television while the parents are running errands, doing household chores and preparing dinner without contemplating the impact that television has on their children.

Sierra Filucci, the TV and DVD editor at Common Sense Media, says don’t throw out the TV with the bath water just yet, not that we ever would. She suggest the following actions to counteract the negativity gushing from the TV set:

  1. Refrain from programming that promotes stereotypes.
  2. Watch TV with the children and engage in dialogue to help them decipher the images and messages they view.
  3. Seek out and encourage children to watch shows that promote diversity like “A.N.T. Farm,” “Doc McStuffins” and “Handy Man.”
  4. She notes that the Academy of Pediatrics advise against any screen time for children under 2 years old, and to also better monitor screen time for older kids.

“It’s about balance, where kids are playing in the real world, doing sports, interacting with their parents and the community,” Fliccui said. “Parents are the best resource for kids and they’re the ones that can have the biggest effect on kids self esteem.”

terry shropshire

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