Is television harmful to young people

The influence of television on the mental and emotional development of children and adolescents


Heller, Frank (Ed.) (1986). The use and abuse of social science. London.
Manfred Spitzer teaches psychiatry at Ulm University. Some books: "Mind on the Net", "Music in the Head", "Self-Determination", "Beware of the Screen. Electronic Media, Brain Development, Health and Society". Compiled from
archive / .bin / dump.fcgi / 2005/0827 / magazine /
0002/ (05-09-26)

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Manfred Spitzer comes under the title "Caution Screen!" in an article in the online version of the Berliner Zeitung from August 27th. 2005 concluded that television littered children's minds, making them stupid and violent. He summarizes some studies on media effects and concludes that television consumption has unfavorable effects on school performance, whereby the effect affects all subjects and cannot be explained by other factors or even has a long-term effect on the level of education achieved later. The long-term effect of television consumption at a very young age is particularly worrying. Interesting in this context is the phenomenon identified in various studies and referred to by research as the "third-person effect" that the conviction that the media is dangerous does not relate to oneself, but only to others who are considered to be considered highly endangered.

Gerald Hüther explains in an interview in Süddeutsche what consequences, in his opinion, it has especially for young people who spend more and more time online by loading videos, tweeting, chatting and trying not to miss anything on their social networks. "When young people enthusiastically send SMS messages all day long, the small paths and nerve connections in the brain become streets on which this process is becoming more and more fluid. We know that the brain region that controls the thumb , has grown much larger among young people over the past decade. " The intensive occupation with the Internet promotes the ability to quickly recognize image patterns, moving the mouse trains the coupling between eye and hand. Those who watch a lot of television are able to understand rapid changes in scene. "In order to further captivate the attention of the audience, television has become ever faster and more colorful over the past 20 years. The young people who have only got to know this can no longer bear a film from the 50s. Their brains have turned on the fast sequences adapted. Reading more than three pages in a book is overwhelming for them - because they have forgotten how to create images in their own heads. For them, only an interactive medium can be faster, more colorful and more exciting than television. "

See also the worksheets
Media and psychology
Theses on the effect of depictions of violence
Theses on the effects of violence in the media
Methods of impact research
Extent of violence on television

Effects of television consumption in childhood and adolescence on the level of education of adults

A New Zealand study that examined the effects of television consumption in children and adolescents on the level of education of adults came to the conclusion that the more television people watch between the ages of five and fifteen, the worse the level of education achieved at the age of 26.

Influence of television on the professional qualifications of children with a medium level of intelligence

Television has the most significant influence on the professional qualifications of children with a medium level of intelligence, i.e. the less gifted tend not to achieve a degree, while the highly gifted end up at university - with or without a lot of television. But what happens in the middle of the intelligence distribution depends very much on how much television is watched - statistically speaking, this affects the majority of children and adolescents.

Impairment of cognitive abilities when watching a lot of television

One found in a representative US survey. that at the age of six children who watch a lot of television between the ages of 3 and 5 (more than three hours a day) have a significant Impairment of their cognitive abilitiesn (concentration, reading skills, language comprehension, math skills) to those who do not see much (less than three hours a day). This effect was particularly pronounced in children who watch television a lot before the age of three.

See also Media effect - viewed differently

Television and academic achievement

A study of third grade students in California looked at the relationship between the presence of a television in the nursery and academic performance in math, reading, language and art classes. In all three areas, the children who did not have their own television did significantly better than those who did.

Relationship between television and disturbed attention

American scientists published a study in 2004 which clearly shows a connection between television and disturbed attention. Ten percent of the children examined suffered from attention deficit. The most important finding of the study was: The more time children between two and four years spend in front of the television, the greater the likelihood that they will suffer from impaired attention in elementary school.

Television and reading performance

In a German study, children of kindergarten age were divided into those who see little (15 to 20 minutes a day), normal viewers (about an hour) and those who see a lot (more than two hours). Then the reading performance of the children in the first and third school years was measured. The frequent viewers did not have the same increase in performance over the course of the second and third grades as the children who watched less television overall. So it is actually because of the television in kindergarten that reading does not work so well in school.

The influence of television on the development of language and reading skills in children was examined by Ennemoser, Schiffer, Reinsch & Schneider (2003). As is well known, fears are expressed with regard to possible harmful effects of this medium, including concerns with regard to social and emotional development and impairments of children's language and reading skills are discussed. Mostly the following assumptions are behind the feared negative effects, for example that television suppresses reading in leisure time (suppression hypothesis), that children can no longer concentrate sufficiently due to the daily flood of images (hypothesis of concentration loss) or that reading is due to entertaining The medium of television is viewed as comparatively unattractive (reading devaluation hypothesis). It is true that television is also said to have a certain beneficial potential. for example with regard to programs with educational content. The results of various studies show that children with particularly high levels of television consumption (frequent viewers) generally perform the worst in language and reading tests. In individual sub-areas, well-seeing children not only have a less favorable starting position, but they also showed significantly lower increases in performance over the course of a year than their peers. In addition, children from disadvantaged backgrounds had longer television viewing times, with increased television consumption corresponding to overall weaker language and reading performance. Interactions between television consumption and social status are also observed, showing that within the group of children with a high socio-economic status, those who view TV frequently perform particularly poorly. The mainstreaming hypothesis, according to which high television consumption reduces class differences in performance measures, is rather small, meaning that there are performance-homogenizing effects due to increased television consumption.

TV viewing and language skills

Unemployed parents from Vienna-Ottakring kept their four children, aged up to four and a half years, tied up in front of the television in a stroller for several months every day. The two girls and two boys showed considerable development deficits, whereby the four and a half year old son can hardly speak and the three and a half year old daughter cannot walk.
The press of April 20, 2011

Roseberry et al. (2009) investigated in three studies on 93 children between the ages of two and a half and three and a half years whether they can learn new verbs from television programs - especially programs that are classified as educationally valuable. Under three-year-olds there was little linguistic benefit from the videos when they watched the excerpts alone, but if an adult was present to demonstrate the action that was later shown in the video, the children could remember the new words much better. Older children, on the other hand, benefited linguistically from the programs.

In a longitudinal study, an attempt was made to uncover possible effects of television on the development of language and reading skills of 332 primary school children, taking into account differences in intelligence. The children of the two roughly equal age cohorts were on average around six and eight years old at the start of the study. Within the scope of this study, children with a high level of television consumption (frequent viewers) and children with less pronounced television consumption (normal and rarely seen) were compared with regard to the development of their (written) language performance, with intelligence being taken into account as an additional factor.

Although the general intelligence of the children consistently showed the strongest effects, that also proved to be TV consumption as a relevant influencing factor. In the younger age group, there were interactions between the factors in the sense that those who viewed a lot showed particularly poor linguistic performance in the group of less intelligent children compared to those who saw little.

See also the text available online "On the influence of television on the development of language and reading skills in children". There it says:" So far it is still unclear to what extent television can actually be regarded as the cause of the weaker language and reading abilities of the "frequent viewers". The assumption that children with linguistic deficits only use the "easier" medium is just as plausible Prefer television as a leisure activity. (...) In the course of further research, potentially relevant characteristics of the family background, such as the stimulation of the environment or parental involvement in school matters, should therefore be taken into account, as these may be related to the television consumption of children. "

See also Television and violence and Extent of violence on television or Media and psychology

In a study by the Psychological Institute of the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg (Myrtek & Scharff 2000), the physical and emotional effects of television on 200 schoolchildren were examined under everyday conditions. In this experiment, the students wore a portable data collection device over a period of 23 hours, which recorded the change in heart rate and movement activity via measuring electrodes. In addition, the students were asked about every 15 minutes to enter their current state of health and behavior into the device at the push of a button.

It was thus possible to prove that people who view television not only react less emotionally to television than those who do not view television, but also that they perform poorly at school, especially in German. Communication with friends and family members also suffered as a result. Compared to school, leisure time was more emotionally demanding, with television playing a central role. Frequent viewers dulled the television content more than those who viewed infrequently. In contrast, those who viewed the school a lot felt more "stressed" than those who saw little and performed worse, especially in the subject of German.

TV effect in adults

There is still little research on that Effects of television viewing in older adults or whether this visual behavior in adults is associated with a decline in cognitive performance. Data of English Longitudinal Study of Aging (3,662 adults aged 50 and over) on the relationship between television and cognitive performance six years later showed that watching television for more than 3.5 hours a day is associated with a decline in verbal memory for years, regardless of possibly moderating demographic factors such as socio-economic status and depression or physical health. The more a participant used the medium, the more the verbal memory had degraded compared to the initial value. The loss of verbal memory could not be explained solely by lack of exercise, which is often assumed. In addition, the female gender, low level of education, low social status and social isolation were associated with increased television consumption.

Search potential of television series

Scheurer & Ernst (2016) and Scheurer, Ernst & Rothlauf (2016) found in studies of the addictive potential of series such as Game of Thrones that identification with series heroes in particular can lead to dependence. In addition, any number of entertainment media can be accessed through streaming services at any time of the day or night, so that the relationship or the identification of the audience with the characters of a television series ensures the development of a strong sense of social belonging. The viewers regard the characters in the series as trusted friends, in whose lives they feel they have a share, and over time they want more and more of them. Such a relationship with fictional characters is mainly built up when the viewers find parallels to their own person or mix their life with that of the series character. This leads, inter alia. for binge watching, i.e. to watch several series episodes at a time. With such series, viewers feel accepted and less alone, so they cannot stop watching a particular TV series. A large number of these programs are based on scripts that often focus on the conflicts of socially or socially disadvantaged people. It also found that people with low self-esteem are more likely to become addicted to reality TV, while other factors play a greater role in people with high self-acceptance, such as social belonging, the also promotes addiction to television series. Reality TV also enables viewers to compare their own life situation with the life of less successful people shown on television in order to increase their subjective well-being.


Babies and toddlers in front of the screen

A study by the University of Washington found that almost 90 percent of children under two years of age and 40 percent of toddlers under three months of age regularly watch television, watch DVDs or videos. Long-term studies show that children under the age of three who watch television for more than three hours a day permanent deficits exhibit. Maya Götz (International Central Institute for Youth and Educational Television, Munich) has now examined how useful Baby television is because videotapes with baby TV promise parents smarter and more alert children. According to this, television is a spectacle for children under one and a half years of age, because they only see what they know from everyday life, such as their own mother. From the age of 12 months they understand basic emotions about an object, such as brands and advertising. However, they are still unable to follow stories. Only from the age of four do children recognize the difference between advertising and broadcasting. They only understand the intention that something should be sold to them at an early age in elementary school. Behaviors shown on television are already being used at a younger age imitatedto say positive things like 'please' as well as negative things like strike.

In California, especially in Silicon Valley, they are booming Waldorf schools, because this type of school, which was developed in Germany over a hundred years ago, is considered a pioneering step towards a successful future in the home of the digital revolution. In Waldorf education in the USA, anything that even looks like IT is forbidden up to high school. Since around 75 percent of parents work in the IT industry, IT-savvy parents have apparently also come to the conclusion that their children do not understand the world literally with smartphones, tablets & Co. as well as with one in all the senses focused pedagogy. Relevant study results suggest a connection between screen time and educational success, because the earlier and the more time a child spends in front of the screen, the weaker their learning success.Digitization seems to be problematic especially for the learning triangle of attention, concentration and memory, whereby the risk of concentration difficulties increases with every hour in front of the screen in preschool children.

[Image source: By Manfredspies (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons]

Prenatal television

If the pregnant mother regularly watches a soap opera, increased activity of the embryo can be detected when the title melody is played. Later on, the children can be soothed by this melody.


Götz, Maya (2007). Television from -0.5 to 5. A summary of the state of research. TelevIZIon, 20/1, 12-17. (08-05-06)

Fancourt, Daisy & Steptoe, Andrew (2019). Television viewing and cognitive decline in older age: findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging. Scientific Reports, 9, doi: 10.1038 / s41598-019-39354-4.

Maren Scheurer & Claus-Peter H. Ernst (2016). A Study on the Role of Self-Esteem in Reality TV Addiction. “Séries et Dépendance II” in Paris, December 8-10, 2016.

Maren Scheurer, Claus-Peter H. Ernst & Franz Rothlauf (2016). TV Series Characters Are Almost Like Friends to Me - On the Influence of Perceived Belonging on TV Series Addiction. “Séries et Dépendance II” in Paris, February 5-6, 2016.

Myrtek, Michael & Scharff, Christian (2000). Television, School, and Behavior: Studies on the Emotional Stress of Students. Bern: Hans Huber.

Roseberry, Sarah, Hirsh-Pasek, Kathy, Parish-Morris, Julia & Golinkoff, Roberta M. (2009). Live Action: Can Young Children Learn Verbs From Video? Child Development, 80, 1360-1375.
Schiffer, Kathrin, Ennemoser, Marco & Schneider, Wolfgang (2002). The relationship between television consumption and the development of language and reading skills in elementary school age as a function of intelligence. Zeitschrift für Medienpsychologie, 14, pp. 12-13.

Under the use of

Spitzer, Manfred (2005). Caution screen!
WWW: (05-09-26)

Stangl, Werner (2001). [stangl] test: intelligence - what is it? .
WWW: (05-09-26)

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