Hidden Dangers of Television
so much in their first three years compared to the rest of their
lives. They learn to walk, to speak and experience the awakening
of thinking as they grow from being babies to infants. Through
play, children develop their knowledge of things, their relationships
watching itself affects child development regardless of the programme
content. Recent research show that television watching adversely
affects children's thinking, speaking, imagination, senses, physique,
feelings, and behaviour. It is important for parents to be aware
of these effects.
watching as an experience
watching puts children into a passive, trance-like state where they
become "TV zombies" a condition quite different from their
active, playful state when not watching. Some parents observed
that: "my five year old goes into a trance when he watches
TV He just gets locked into what is happening on the screen. He's
totally, absolutely absorbed when he watches and oblivious to anything
else." After television watching children can be irritable.
"After watching they're nervous, bored, disagreeable, slowly
coming back to normal." What, then, do children experience
while watching television?
calls television the 'plug-in-drug' because many people find they
cannot stop watching. People joke about being "hooked on TV"
Someone said "I watch TV the way an alcoholic drinks."
drugs and alcohol, TV watching allows the participant to blot out
the real world and enter into a pleasurable and passive mental state,
where worries and anxieties cannot intrude. The typical vacant
state of someone on drugs or alcohol is very similar to the state
of the TV watcher.
The eyes need
to be completely passive in order to watch TV i.e. a fixed focus,
no voluntary eye movements and a fixed head position. It is as
if instead of the imagery arising from within as in day dreaming,
it is produced mechanically for the watcher by the television.ips
with other children, their physical control and their imagination.
Playing is a child's work, and channels energy constructively into
the learning processes. It is essentially active. Children learn
through imitating other children and the adults who tell stories,
nursery rhymes, speak with them, and who can provide everyday activities
such as baking or making pictures.
retards brain development
The brain is
patterned by the senses, by movement, speech, thought and imagination.
As the brain develops, children shift from a non-verbal "right
hemisphere" dreaming consciousness to a verbal, logical "left
hemisphere" state. Television watching prolongs children's
dependency on the right hemisphere. The "brain" strain
on children of forming 625 lines composed of over 800 dots appearing
25 times per second - into meaningful images must be considerable.
With the lack of eye movement, this strain can produce sleeplessness,
anxiety, nightmares, headaches, perceptual disorders, poor concentration
and blunted senses. T. V. watching can produce sensory deprivation.
to speak by talking with real people, not by listening to mechanically
reproduced sound. Real people speaking communicate the meaning
of words, whereas television only reproduces the sounds, a subtle
but vital difference, confusing for toddlers. Television by emphasising
the visual, reduces the need of children to learn how to speak;
no verbal response is required of the child; thus speech is discouraged.
a working-party on reading agreed that "Children knew nursery
rhymes much less well than previously, largely because of television
which was a "look and forget" rather than a "look
and learn" medium.
encourages lazy readers
concentration, accurate perception, imagination, the comprehension
of a story line, and the freedom of the reader to vary the pace.
Television, by causing the "vacant state" undermines concentration;
by an overwhelming visual impact stultifies the imagination; by
blunting the senses, interferes with the mechanics of reading; and
by emphasising the nonverbal reduces children's enthusiasm for words.
reduced sense of identity
there was a children's culture rich in games, songs and rhymes.
Children could play longer, sustain interest more, play dramatically
and were more active according to experienced nursery teachers.
Television watching puts children into an untypically passive state
in which they are deprived of their true work which is their play.
their sense of identity, of saying "I" to themselves in
meeting real people. The people on TV are unreal, impersonal images
which do little or nothing to awaken a child's sense of self. Hence
"TV children" may tend to relate to themselves and others
as things, objects, tools or even machines. This attitude may later
develop into an inability to react constructively in social situations.
of violent programmes may affect children's behaviour, for children
learn by imitation. However, the nature of the TV experience regardless
of programme content may cause antisocial behaviour. Relating to
others more as objects than human beings, a result of TV watching,
can contribute to violence. Also, the television experience gives
an illusion of participating in an activity when in fact one is
totally passive, so that children who are heavy viewers are less
able to judge the feelings, expectations and problems of others
in real life situations.
effects of radiation
artificial light may affect children's health and vitality. The
scientist Ott found that beans' growth in front of a TV set was
distorted by toxic radiation into a vine like growth, with roots
growing upwards out of the soil. Ott questioned what the excessive
absorption of artificial light might do to children.
no educational benefit
Which is better
qualified to teach a young child, a machine or another human being?
Experienced teachers have noted that children who watch quite a
lot of television retain very little of its content after a short
while (The "look and forget" Medium). This could be due
to the fact that the children are not called-upon to be active;
they are not engaging their will-power and creating their own imaginative
pictures. The impression left by the TV images is superficial.
programme "Sesame Street" was specially designed to help
disadvantaged pre-school children catch up cognitively and verbally
with those from more fortunate backgrounds. A 1975 survey suggests
that "Sesame Street" widened the achievement gap, and
that light viewers exhibited more gains in learning than heavy viewers.
can we do?
If you feel,
after reading this, that you would like to change your family's
habits with regard to television, how should you go about it? First,
make sure that both parents are in agreement. Then realise that
it will be difficult to get rid of television without putting other
things in its place, especially if your family have been heavy viewers.
1 - Restrict firmly the number of programmes watched, or, if you
are resolute enough, get rid of the TV set altogether. Or put it
away and use it only for very special occasions.
2 - Offer alternative activities of a creative sort, e.g. crafts,
puppetry, dressing-up drawing and painting, modelling, pets, various
hobbies, sports, music, fork dancing, nature studies, gardening.
3 - Encourage reading of well-written books (classics). Read aloud
to little ones.
4 - Aim at a positive and warm family life, interesting mealtimes,
bedtime stories, singing, nursery rhymes, etc.
5 - Try to find friends who think the same way and help each other,
e.g. organising children's parties together.
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