Could TV’s Zombie Effect on Your Kid Be Good?

Television and video games are bad for kids. Many parents, whether they permit child screen time or not, accept this as gospel.

Author Steven Johnson offers a different perspective.

“Parents can sometimes be appalled at the hypnotic effect that television has on toddlers…,” writes Johnson in Everything Bad is Good For You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter. “The same feeling arrives a few years later, when they see their grade-schoolers navigating through a video game world, oblivious to the reality that surrounds them.”

Johnson goes on to explain that the child’s silent, zombie-like gaze at the television screen is not a sign of mental atrophy; it’s a sign of focus.

As Johnson notes, a toddler’s brain is constantly looking for new stimuli. In a house with few changes from day to day, the television is the most surprising thing the child will encounter.

The television—the new stimuli—requires close scrutiny, hence the child’s laser focus on the screen.

Could your child’s “zombie” appearance be a sign that they are focused, engaged, and perhaps getting a few more wrinkles on their brain?

Naturally this argument has its detractors.

There is some research that indicates that while exposing infants and toddlers to television does not harm them, it also does not improve their language and visual motor skills at age three.

Other opponents point to rampant violence, disturbing images, and sexual content, as cause to avoid television and video games.

The debate is probably as old as the television itself.

To my readers: What is your philosophy on kids and television? Do you know any TV or video game zombies? Do you adhere to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation (No TV for kids under 2; and 2 hours per day for older kids)?

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About Nicole Robinson

Nicole Robinson is a Dallas-based freelance writer who specializes in college planning, parenting, women’s lifestyle, education, and self-help. But she's always hungry to munch on new topics. In addition to writing for The BookWormMama blog, Nicole provides content, copywriting and proofreading services for various publications.


Could TV’s Zombie Effect on Your Kid Be Good? — 22 Comments

    • Thanks Jai. Author Steven Johnson would agree with you on the importance of real life experiences. He notes that if you were to plunk a real life puppet show in the living room that would pique a child’s interest more than watching it on the screen.

  1. I waited longer than my friends to allow my daughter to watch TV. I think she was about 18 months when she was allowed to watch one episode of Sesame Street per day. Then between 2 and 3 we got far too lax and she watched too much TV and I feel so horribly guilty about how much TV she was watching. It wasn’t on all day long but at least one full length movie a day. It’s embarrassing really. For the last year my daughter only gets to watch TV or a movie as a reward every once in awhile. Maybe twice a month. With my younger daughter I’m going to try and help her avoid TV for as long as possible. I hate the zombie effect it leaves on your kids.
    Kelly @ Texas Type A Mom recently posted..How to Get an Afternoon Energy BoostMy Profile

    • Thanks Kelly. My daughter didn’t start liking TV until we discovered Dora a couple of months ago. I have to pay attention to prevent her from getting too many hours of screen time (which of course triggers the mommy guilt).

      It sounds like you have worked out a good TV plan for your girls.

    • Thanks Trisha. You bring up a good point. Just because it’s on one of the kid channels, doesn’t mean it’s safe. Parents have to pay attention to what their kids watch on television and what’s really going on in that video game. Assume nothing.

  2. My children grew up watching Sesame Street and cartoons. My grandchildren are glued to TV and video games and I feel like it is too much for them. Even the littlest one wants to watch particular shows. I don’t know whether that is good or bad.
    Karen recently posted..Happy Birthday OwenMy Profile

  3. Thanks Karen.

    As a kid we probably had five television channels. We were on a heavy rotation of Casper the Friendly Ghost, Three Stooges, and Sesame Street. Now kids have so many options for entertainment it’s mind boggling.

  4. Everything in moderation has almost everyone has said.

    My soon to be 3 year old has picked up some many new words by watching Disney Junior and other educative programs.

    I don’t think watching TV is as “evil” as people make it sound, guess it also depends on the programs being watched.
    aloted recently posted..Stay Awake At Work | Super Working MumMy Profile

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