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Plenty of stories recount what happens when people spend their days watching too much TV, but the health risks of doing so are very real. Cases have been made for physical and mental health risks created by too much television viewing, and while it might seem like an easy babysitter, it may make future parenting much more difficult. In addition to encouraging physical inactivity and unmonitored snacking, sitting in front of the television for hours at a time can also lead to adapting questionable practices and self-esteem issues for children and adults.
Studies have shown that the risk of health problems rises with the amount of time an individual spends watching television. Watching too much TV can increase the likelihood of developing conditions such as cardiovascular disease. When the body remains inactive in a position such as sitting on the couch, the heart and lungs work less to pump enough blood through the system. Prolonged periods of inactivity weaken the heart and also allow cholesterol and other harmful substances to build up in the arteries.
When the heart pumps more slowly, less blood is delivered to the body. Substances such as fat and cholesterol build up in the arteries, making an individual more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes. When this occurs in young children whose bodies are still growing, it can be particularly dangerous.
The health risks of watching too much TV can also be more insidious, especially concerning young and impressionable individuals. Television could not exist without advertising, and when children are exposed to a constant stream of candy, fast food, and alcohol commercials, it could lead to the development of dangerous habits down the road. Advertising firms tend to target younger audiences, knowing that not only are they impressionable, but that habits are likely to last a lifetime when formed at a young age. When children are repeatedly told by the TV that fast food is a good thing, it can make obesity problems worse.
Watching too much TV also exposes individuals to a world in which perfection is valued above all else. Unrealistic standards can be established and nurtured by television, and without a break into the real world, self-esteem, particularly that of children, can be severely damaged. With a constantly reinforced image of a world with thin and flawless celebrities, health problems such as anorexia or obsession with self-image can be created and made worse by a vicious circle of inactivity and obesity in front of the television.