Children who watch too much
television are more likely to have psychological problems and
are at risk of not developing the skills that enable them to
succeed at life, a Wellington psychologist says.
The comments follow a British government briefing document
which said children who spent more time on computers,
watching TV and playing video games tended to experience
higher levels of emotional distress, anxiety and depression.
Clinical psychologist Josephine Leech, who specialises in
child and family issues, said children who spent more time
inside and in front of the television were more likely to
have more problems and were not exposed to life's challenges.
"[The briefing] doesn't surprise me at all and I think it is
consistent with other research about television watching and
the effects on children," she said.
"These things are quite well known, that sedentary children
who are not out exercising, not out mixing socially, are more
likely to have problems, less likely to have concentration
spans that allow them to succeed at school and less likely to
have exposure to both successes and failures that life throws
up and develop a more resilient temperament as a result."
Socialising and being active were important to a child's
development, so the more television they watched, the less
time they spent growing those important faculties, she said.
"Children who spend lots of time sitting watching TV or in
front of other electronic media are not allowing themselves
to get out and test themselves against the world and being
with peers and the social opportunities that that creates.
"They are possibly less likely to be involved in sports and
other activities where children have the opportunity to
develop their self esteem and do something purposeful."
The content of some television programmes children were
exposed to was also an area of concern, she said.
"Another dimension is that they are viewing a world on TV
that portrays a certain life and they maybe trying to measure
up to that and see if they fit in with the brave and the
beautiful which we see on television."
There were positive educational games and television
programmes, but parents needed to put some limits on the
amount of time their kids spend in front of the television
screen, she said.
- By George Driver for