Delhi children spend 115 minutes per day on average on watching television compared to 94 minutes by Kolkata kids, says a multi-city viewership study conducted by TAM Media Research. The time spent by Bangalore children is the highest – about 141 minutes per day. But this is only an average, in many households children spend almost the entire weekend watching TV.
While TAM attributes TV addiction to the boom in child-targeted programmes and channels, psychologists feel that children fall back on television due to lack of other stimulating activities.
According to clinical psychologist Dr Sujatha Sharma, TV viewing-related complaints are the most common. “It is the most common issue that we get. But the issue has got a lot to do with the change in urban lifestyle. The galli cricket that children used to play has been marred by Delhi’s traffic . Neither is Delhi safe anymore for children. Parents are worried about kidnappers and sexual abusers on the streets. So children fall back on TV. I am not sure if the rural kids are watching as much TV. The urban factors are pushing it up,” she said.
Long hours in front of TV is not good for a child’s development. Cognitive development is nurtured by learning-based methods, not by a passive activity like staying glued to the virtual world, explains Dr Sharma. “The content often causes various complications in children . The stories are exaggerated and many a times, there is no element of reality in it. There can be mindless violence or there could be premature exposure to sexual content. I have noticed that very young children get really scared or suffer from anxiety phobia after watching supernatural movies or thrillers. This is not good,” she adds. Psychologists claim that pornographic addiction or violent behaviour is often a result of TV addiction.
But there are positives, too. If the content is monitored by parents , some of the new channels offer a wide variety, which is not only entertaining but educational, too.
Dr Sharma says that half an hour of TV viewing everyday is not a bad idea. But anything above two hours may be on the verge of addiction. Playing board games and going for walks are better ways of spending time with children than watching soap operas with them, she adds.
“My son wears jeans even when he is sleeping. This is because he watches people wear jeans and look smart on TV. A lot of consumer products are so well targeted towards kids that even advertisements on TV can affect them. But there are some great children’s movies and science programmes that I and my son love watching,” said Neelu H, mother of a four-year-old.