The Benefits and Challenges of Children’s Television Programming

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on September 16, 2011 2:21 pm

In the early 1950‘s, the objective of children’s programming was originally to provide content to entertain children on Saturday mornings. Today, while children’s programming continues to be a source of entertainment, it has evolved to become an educational resource for facilitating literacy, developing imagination, cultural awareness, scientific quandaries, mathematical problems, and social aptitude. 

As parents, we should be active participants in the lives of our children.  Parents should not use the television as a babysitting tool.  Children should not be spending countless hours numbed out in front of the television set, viewing randomly picked programs on randomly picked channels.  There should be some rhyme and reason behind what your child is watching.

It’s important that parents monitor a child’s viewing habits, because they may, or may not, approve of the messages being broadcasted. A child is like a sponge, they soak up every single minuet message being broadcasted in front of them.   Moreover, children should not be made responsible for monitoring their own viewing habits, rather a parent should play an active role in their child’s viewing intake.  Not unlike nutritional intakes, younger children will digest whatever is placed in front of them.

As a parent, purposefully set aside sometime to view programming intended for the eyes, ears, and mind of your child.   Know not only the characters, but the messages being broadcasted.  It is your responsibility to act as an advocate for your child’s rights and safety.

Be certain that your child is watching age appropriate programming. Children who watch programming not intended for their age parameters, have a higher likelihood developing a number of psychological conditions, symptoms, and issues.

Do not be afraid of discussing your child’s viewing habits with them.  “Encouraging adolescents to express their opinions and to analyze and question television content is a parental strategy that has been found to reduce adolescents’ fears and aggressiveness, as well as to improve their critical approach to the medium (television).”  (Josephson, 1995)


1.)        Are you monitoring your child’s viewing habits? Why, why not?

2.)        Does your child have free reign over the television remote?

3.)        How prevalent is the television in your home?

4.)        Are you partaking of countless hours of television? Or, are you limiting the amount of  television consumed within your home?

5.)        Are you emphasizing and leading an active life as a parent?

6.)        Has your child developed a routine of chores, homework, play, and free-time?  Children need order, routines, and structure.  It is important that you embed these ideas    into their lives at an early age, or they will find it difficult to adapt them later in life.

7.)        Did you know that parental rules can influence a child’s viewing experience?

8.)        Are you spending adequate time as a family unit, beyond your television viewing habits?

9.)        Did you know that television viewing habits can lead to childhood obesity? (Boyse & Bushman, 2010; Hancox, Milne, Poulton, 2004)

10.)      Does your child have access to a television in his/her room? Did you know that sleep patterns can be disturbed for children who leave their monitors on while they rest? (Johnson, Cohen, et. al, 2004)

11.)      Did you know that an overabundance of television viewing can lead to lowered ambitions, concentration, and overall goal oriented traits?

12.)      Did you know that “the average child who watches 2 hours of cartoons a day may see nearly 10,000 violent incidents each year, of which the researchers estimate that at least 500 pose a high risk for learning and imitating aggression and becoming desensitized to violence.” (Kaiser Family, 2011)

13.)      Did you know that “…your child is ready to communicate from birth (?) Their brain is developing rapidly and they will amaze you with how quickly they learn and grow.” (Words for Life, 2011) Therefore, it is important that you consider what your child’s brain is absorbing.

14.)      Were you aware that behavioral problems can ensue because of too much television viewing?  Research has shown that “elementary students who spend more than two hours a day watching TV or using a computer are more likely to have emotional, social and attention problems.  Exposure to video games also increases the risk of attention problems in children. Children who watch excessive amounts of TV are more likely to bully than children who don’t.” (MayoClinic, 2011)

15.)      Who is more likely to be portrayed as a victim on television, a child or an adult? “Children, particularly girls, are much more likely than adults to be portrayed as victims of violence on TV, and this can make them more afraid of the world around them.” (Media Awareness Network, 2011)

Research has shown varying results concerning the benefits and disadvantages of television viewing amongst children. A difficulty for some working parents is to find the time to spend simply playing and snuggling their child.   For newborns this is an essential time of development, because at this stage of life; roughly between the ages of birth and 5, a child is thriving for affection.  If a child is incapable of bonding with his or her parents, this child will have a greater probability of developing an attachment disorder.

American Academy of Pediatrics (2011) have suggested that Pediatricians should urge parents to avoid television viewing for children under the age of 2 years. Although certain television programs may be promoted to this age group, research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with parents and other significant caregivers for healthy brain growth and the development of appropriate social, emotional, and cognitive skills.

Other research has shown favorability of educational programming such as PBS Kids; Sesame Street; Mr. Rogers; Bill Nye the Science Guy; Discovery; A&E; and many more.

For older children, several news outlets (i.e. CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC) have taken advantage of this niche market, offering programming that educates about world affairs, live news events, and information relevant to a developing mind.

Through the medium of television, children can learn many positive life lessons, ethics, and moral insights. It can prove an educational catalyst helping stimulate a child’s imagination and creativity. It can engage discussions of diversity, acceptance, and self-worth.

When commercial free programming is in place, children avoid being bombarded by the countless commercials that feed commercialism and the frequent overwhelming urge to obtain the right toys, clothes, or gadgets.

While television has proven a nemesis unto the family unit; it has offered the family an opportunity to communicate, if-and-only-if, the family delegates the time and effort.

In the end, it’s about balance: a balance of time, thoughts, input and output.  Children should not be exposed to the woes of this world (i.e. September 11, 2011; Madrid 2004) through some forum on television. Rather if-and-only-if, you as a parent feel it is necessary, then-and-only-then, should you consider the depth with which you discuss this matter with your children.  Do not forget to discuss matters that are uplifting and joyful.  The emphasis here is balance. Life is about balance.


American Academy of Pediatrics (1999)  American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on public education. Author 104 (2), 341-343.

Boyse, K., Bushman, B. (2010) Television and children.  Retrieved. September 11, 2011, from

Hancox, R. J., Milne, B. J., & Poulton, R. (2004)  Association between child and adolescent television viewing and adult health: a longitudinal birth cohort study. The Lancet 364,    257-262.

Hancox, R. J., Milne, B. J., & Poulton, R. (2005)  Association of television viewing during childhood with poor educational achievement.  Arch. Pediatr. Adolesc. Med. 159,            614-618.

Josephson, W. L. (1995) Television violence: A review of the effects on children of different ages. Retrieved. September 10, 2011, from

Johnson, J.G., Cohen, P., Kasen, S., First, M. B., Brook JS.  et. al. (2004) Association between television viewing and sleep problems during adolescence and early adulthood. Arch. Pediatr. Adolesc. Med. 158 (6), 562-8.

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (2003) Key facts. Retrieved. September 12, 2011, from

Mayo Clinic (2011) Children and TV: Limiting your child’s screen time. Retrieved. September 14, 2011,

Rideout, V. J., Foehr, U.G., & Roberts, D. F. (2010) Generation M2:  media in the lives of 8-18 year-olds.  Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved. September 15, 2011, from

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

8 comments on “The Benefits and Challenges of Children’s Television Programming”

  1. Hello,
    In my opinion I would say that the children are largely affected by the divorce of their parents and this will not only affect them physically but mentally also.


    1. Dear Jennifer,

      I agree that divorce can have a profound affect upon the life of a child.
      As a therapist, I know how dire divorce can be on the life of a child. However, we must also recognize that some relationships simply must cease, because of abuse (verbal, emotional, psychological, physical or sexual); bad connections; and many other issues. Sadly, some relationships should end.

      Furthermore, as a therapist, I do not encourage or deny someone’s desire for divorce or staying with their partner. Ultimately, the patient/client must make the final decision. It is their life and their choice.

      I learned long ago, that “if” I make a decision for another, it may, or may not be the right decision for that individual. I do not and will not make such drastic decisions. I will not persuade a patient either, because it is their life, and they need to be empowered to make such decisions. A majority of folks know what choices should be made, but struggle with making such tough decisions. Therefore, I encourage patients to discover the “right” path for their life.

      Jennifer, I do appreciate your feedback and your valuable time.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

    1. Dear Angela Russo,

      Thank you for your time, review, and feedback.

      Warmest of Thoughts,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  2. Tracy says:

    Thank you Dr Brown for reminding us to preview what our children view. Everything that they are exposed to can influence their lives. As adults we are suppose to understand what we see on TV and other media, but our children are directly influenced by what they see and are exposed to. We should do all that is in our power to protect our children and this should include what they watch.

    Thank you again for your inspiring and thought provoking words.


    1. Dear Tracy,

      I thank you for your very caring feedback. It is necessary that we, as parents do everything “…in our power to protect our children and this should include what they watch.” It is not about restricting our children, it is about protecting them.

      I thank you for your time and efforts.

      Warmest of Thoughts,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  3. Thank you Dr. Brown for another great article! Refreshing to read such a thorough and informative commentary regarding television’s pros and cons along with the emotionalism expressed – and I confess I am guilty of the latter. When my youngest daughter was two and a half, my husband popped Jurasic Park into the VCR instead of Land Before Time. Not to knock your credentials but, Mr. Ph.d then sat down to read a science journal in the adjacent living room and didn’t check on her until she checked on him two hours later. Yes, shockingly, I remained married to him. She was brilliant enough to pop the bad dinosaurs into the luggage of her uncle when he visited two days later – a fact we only learned when he returned home and unpacked. Children really are smarter than we think and I am SOO grateful for caring professionals as yourself who are helping us well intending parents not screw them up too much. Hugs!

    1. Dear Mariaine Cover MPA, MOM

      I am always appreciative of your feedback and your time. I wholeheartedly agree that “children are really smarter than we think,” or that we give them credit for being.

      Admittedly, I too am appreciative of my professional colleagues, professional commentators, bloggers, etc. who care about children. Mariaine, I thank you for offering the site “PARENTING 2.0”. I firmly believe that many on your site genuinely care about children and their overall wellbeing. It’s refreshing to have a site that offers a platform with which we can be authentic, genuine, and open to parental advice.

      Finally, I too am a parent; a parent who seeks the wisdom of other parents and professionals. If I have learned one thing from this life, it is that I need to teach my children to love themselves unconditionally. No matter occurs in this life, good or bad, I should love myself beyond all measure. I firmly believe that unconditional love and peace are obtainable, but I must be willing to let go of the conditions that I have placed upon my life. If-and-only-if, I can let go of these conditions, then-and-only-then, will I have learned to love myself.

      Mariaine, thank you for your very thoughtful feedback.

      Warmest of Thoughts,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

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