I always thought it was common knowledge that watching TV can have a negative effect on kids, but at least one expert thinks parents have a lot to learn. Victor Strasburger, MD, a University of New Mexico pediatrician, just authored a paper on how electronic media affects children's health, and he's quoted today in a USNews.com piece:
"Most parents are clueless... They have no idea about media effects. They probably have no idea what their children are watching. Parents need to understand that media can have an impact on everything they're concerned about with their children's health and development: school performance, learning disabilities, sex, drugs, aggressive behavior."
Strasburger's paper, which appears online in the journal Pediatrics, discusses the thousands of existing studies on children and media and outlines both the good and bad that comes from children watching TV, playing video games, and engaging in other electronic media. The authors say in the paper that "too little has been done by parents, health care practitioners, schools, the entertainment industry, or the government to protect children and adolescents from harmful media effects and to maximize the powerfully prosocial aspects of modern media" - and they provide tips on what can be done. (For parents, I think reading Nancy Shute's USNews column is a good start.)