How TV can affect children's self-esteem

Watching television can have a marked effect on children's self-esteem. This is according to new research from Indiana University (IU), which found TV can impact different kids in various ways.

While spending time in front of the box is likely to decrease the self-esteem of black boys, black girls and young white females, the opposite is true for young white males.

The investigation - which has been published in the journal Communication Research - showed exposure to electronic media can play a significant role in people feeling worse about themselves in the long-run, especially as young individuals spend so much time watching TV.

Kristen Harrison, Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan, who worked with Assistant Professor of Telecommunications in the IU College of Arts and Sciences on the report, noted: "Children who are not doing other things besides watching television cannot help but compare themselves to what they see on the screen." 

Sue Firth, a Chartered Psychologist, comments:

“The difficulty for kids is distinguishing between what they are watching and what they learn about themselves. They cannot separate events and think “that affects only him or her” but instead think ‘”oh no, that would happen to me!” and this means they personalise situations probably to the point where it can lower their estimation of themselves.

"Self esteem is delicate and learnt predominantly by the age of 7 to 10. It comes from things we try to do and often things that are said to us so watching TV and playing games without supervision or anyone to mediate, could be an issue because we ‘pick up’ messages that are said to someone else and believe they would apply to us.

"Parents can do a lot to help a child separate the observations they make from what truly applies to them. For example, they might see a kid struggle to succeed at something and think I will not do any better than them.

"The best thing to do therefore is encourage your child to discuss things with you and if they have developed a belief or attitude you can pick up in their conversation, then ask them how they come to feel or think that. Helping them understand success is a lot about achievement, attitude and persistence will help so that they learn anyone can try and trying hard increases your chances of doing well”