Indian television today has a thriving business going on with an estimated 515 channels on air as of 2010. And with more television channels looking to set shop in India, the numbers are going to go up significantly higher. At one point in time, there was not a single channel that was targeted for children below 15 years. But today, there’s a plethora of channels that cater to these age group kids who comprise of nearly 50% of the television viewing audience!

Research has shown that nearly 50% of the children spend more then two hours everyday in front of the television which is not a good sign considering the impact of the television content on the fragile minds of the kids. There are some people who may recall the stunts carried out by kids who were hooked on to the television series ‘Shakimaan’. In a bid to imitate their favorite super hero, the kids either faced death or suffered serious injuries. Intense television viewing and subjected to programmes containing gruesome crimes have been the causes of criminal acts perpetuated by kids in the real world. From rape to robbery, from violence to murder, most of the kids committing such crimes have some way or the other been influenced by television contents.

And it’s not just mental effect but physical effect also that is affecting today’s juveniles with obesity being the main cause of concern. Watching television endlessly, gobbling up junk foodies with the eyes glued to the television set, being subjected to junk food advertisements and then sleeping with lack of physical and mental activities just puts the body at risk of obesity, stress and other ailments.

But with all these television dramas, the most important thing the children are missing out on is the reading habits. Today, the sales of children’s story books have dipped drastically thanks to the dying reading habits. The late Anant Pai or Uncle Pai as he was fondly known had witnessed this trend a couple of decades ago and as a result ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ was born. But with television channels mushrooming like germs everyday, the reading habit is slowly dying and kids are loosing out on their mental upbringing.

It’s not just education that grooms kids for a brighter future but general knowledge as well which is only possible if kids opt for reading and a lot of reading at that be it story books or general knowledge books. It’s time parents ensured that their kid nurtured reading habits quite early in life. They could do this by involving in reading themselves rather then set an example of watching the shoddy saas-bahu serials on television mindlessly.

Parents would do well to read newspapers and good books to entice the children so that they start emulating them. Encourage the kids to become members of school libraries, take them along to book launches, indulge him with books as gifts, these are some of the things a parent can do for his kid. And if the parents are starting very early to instill the habit of learning in their child, they can do well with audio story books. They work well for small kids as they are more prone to picking up what they hear and retaining it in their mindset.

The onus after all is on the parents to shape their child’s future the way they want to. Between right and wrong, between good and bad, the parents know what needs to be chosen. A moderate television viewing doesn’t harm the child’s future but 0% percent reading habit does and before the reading habit dies down completely, parents need to take guard. Drawing a fine balance between reading and watching television will be a good start. Take that step before your child associates the word ‘reading’ only with studies!