A recent survey conducted by the Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM) has revealed that children between the ages of six and 17 are watching more than 35 hours of television a week, which puts them at a greater risk of obesity, aggression and violent behaviour among them.
The survey interviewed more than 2,000 teenagers and 3,000 parents across major Indian cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad.
It revealed that children who consistently spend more than four hours a day watching television are more likely to be overweight, and that television alone accounts for more than 10% of youth violence.
“The impact of television on children depends on many factors, such as how much they watch, their age and personality, whether they watch it alone or with adults and whether parents talk to them about what they see,” said ASSOCHAM secretary general DS Rawat.
According to the survey results, 54% of 12- to 18-year-olds watch different shows when they are alone than with their parents, and 76% prefer reality television. Also, more than half the children between the ages of four and six preferred watching television to playing with their peers.
Further, the survey highlights that children below eight years of age cannot “uniformly discriminate between real life and fantasy/entertainment”, and those who watch violent shows are more likely to strike out at playmates, argue and disobey authority than those who do not.
A majority of parents, according to the survey, feel that television content is getting more adult and abusive in its language and content, and express concern about what their children are exposed to.
“Most of what my children watch lacks morals and is not child-friendly,” said Bandra housewife Savita Shah, whose daughter, 18, and son, 14, watch several hours of reality television every day. “Distracting them with books or outdoor games works for a very short time, and there is no way to control them. I feel very angry and helpless.”
According to clinical psychologist Chetna Duggal, the primary concern for parents is whether children are developing distorted templates about human relationships based on what they see on television
“Watching too much television deprives them of human interaction that is vital for social, emotional and cognitive growth,” said Duggal. “Parents play a huge role in chanellising them to do different things.”