One of the serious problems of TV is that it robs us of the opportunity to perform one of the most important functions of the human mind , imaging. When you are watching TV, you are in the experience and the work of the mind in imaging is preempted. The image is there for you. The child's CPU is off, it is a mostly in a dumb receive mode.
The world of imaging is one of the most important in developing the minds of children. Children need a few cues to start think freely. They need to develop the pictures in their mind using their own imagination, rather than having the images filled up and deposited into their minds. The creation of our own minds is far more powerful and satisfying - the reason why the movie based on a book you have read is at times less enjoyable than the book itself.
Young children's minds are also psychologically affected by the content of TV , as much as the parental influences. The subliminal modern day messages about consumption, comparison, competition, win-lose relationships , inconsistent morality and sensitive topics such as alternate sexuality, divorce, death etc can leave deep impressions, if left unregulated. Advertisements with sexual innuendos can leave completely wrong messages with children. The recent crime incident in Delhi has perhaps robbed an entire generation of kids of their innocence. A generation of ten or eleven year olds have been rudely introduced by prime time TV to the terrifying concept of sexual brutality even before they learnt their own naughty version of sex through whispered jokes and classroom giggles.
What Can We Do as Parents?
It's perhaps very simple - Plan your TV usage. Decide the TV programs you want to watch and make time for it. Make your children choose the TV programs they want to see. Make them choose and engage in a open dialogue with you. It forces them to use planning and decision making skills. You can also set a expectation of balance of choices- informative programs vs pure entertainment. Planning TV time help us to not to be seized by guilt or frustration - whether it's about your own or your children's TV watching habits .
Also be very firm about the content which is consumed by children. Should they experience something which needs explanation, we must end confusion by clearing the air about sensitive matters.