In 1984 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement that cautioned pediatricians and parents about the potential for television to promote violent or aggressive behavior and obesity.1 The influence of television on early sexual activity, drug and alcohol use and abuse, school performance, and perpetuation of ethnic stereotypes was also stressed. In 1990, the AAP reaffirmed its concerns about the negative effects of television on children and adolescents and provided recommendations to pediatricians and parents for prevention and management of these effects.2

In 1993, most children in the United States still spent more time (outside of school hours) watching television than performing any other activity except sleeping. According to recent Nielsen data,3 the average child and adolescent watches television between 21 and 23 hours per week, with the youngest children viewing the most hours per week. Although the amount of commercial television viewed by children has declined since 1980, the most recent estimates of television viewing do not include the use of videocassette recorders. Therefore, the amount of time that children in our country spend in front of the television set has probably not decreased significantly in the past decade.

Television's influence on children is a function of the length of time they spend watching and the cumulative effect of what they see. By the time the average child reaches age 70, he or she will have spent approximately 7 to 10 years watching television.4 Therefore, the passive nature of television may displace other more active and meaningful experiences of the world.

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