Television Is Not Evil

Complain about your favourite children’s TV programme or mention children and television together in the news and you will get comments like these:

“turn the telly off, and get your fat children out in the air making mud pies and climbing trees and generally being children, the streets are not occupied by perverts and people driving round looking to runover children and dont sue the council when your child trips or falls in the park, its call being clumsy” Frank

 “Perhaps it would be better if these parents played with their beloved children rather than just dump them in front of the tv. Just a thought.” JaneyJ

“Every household I go to with young children – the TV is blaring away with a child glued within an inch of it!!!! Turn it off parents and let them play!!!!!” Anon

“Why do parents allow 18 month old babies to watch TV – can they interact with their child???” James

 

Does watching tv rot your children's brain?
Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

It’s as if parents like us who let our children watch television don’t do anything else with our children other than plonk them in front of the television while we do, I don’t know, maybe paint our nails or smoke a fag or surf the net to leave scathing comments on message boards.

They seem to have failed to consider that if parents bothered to complain meant that they are paying attention to what their children are watching and are investing interest on it; which means that they are actually actively involved with what their children are doing.

I personally don’t watch television by myself, mainly because I’m busy doing other things but I enjoy watching it with my children when we are home. It’s a throw back from my childhood. Watching television was a family affair. I was a part of a big family, my mum wasn’t around and my older siblings virtually raised me. They work during the day and I went to school from seven in the morning until four in the afternoon. I used to look forward to coming home to watch a bit of telly with my nieces. And our friends from the neighbourhood would come and watch it with us too.

My siblings would get home by seven in the evening and we all have dinner, then we would watch the telly together until about ten in the evening . As children, we played a game of “name that advert.” We would have a competition who could shout out the name of the advert first, to the annoyance of the adults but it was fun. So, I always associated watching telly as part ofa  happy family time.

 

watching television is a family affair

Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Television isn’t evil. To consider it as evil and blame it for the decline in children’s behaviour and school performance is like considering cars as evil and therefore we should not use them because they kill people. After all, car accidents are one of the major causes of deaths in the western world.

Television is a great entertainment and educational tool. I believe that if used for what it is, it can only help and enhance children’s knowledge. It allows children to explore the world that is beyond their reach.

Through television, my 4 year old learned that turtles lay eggs in beaches. He knows what the biggest fish is and he knows about Egypt and mummies. He now thinks that he’d like to be a marine biologist or maybe a chef.

Of course I don’t agree that we should use television as the only form of entertainment for children. I don’t think it’s healthy for children to be watching it until late at night (in my home 8 o’clock is late for my children.) Or that it’s ok for children to watch it from morning until night. But I abhor people’s sweeping generalisation that parents who allow kids to watch telly are irresponsible parents who use the television to keep their children out of the way. My only consolation is that people who easily attack other people’s parenting are showing their ignorance.

But what about those studies that linked watching television to bad behaviour, obesity and poor performance at school?

I won’t dispute them, after all I’m not an academic, but many of them only show half-truths. Many of the studies only compared children who watched too much television and those who don’t. They don’t consider other factors like the environments that the kids lived in, their social status and their home life.

If you want to see a different research to prove that television doesn’t rot your children’ brain, the research conducted by Gentzkow and Shapiro titled:Does Television Rot Your Brain” published in 2006; is a good night time reading.

In their research Gentzkow and Shapiro compared the test results of almost 30,000 sixth grade children from Denver and New York in 1965. These children were born in 1947.

In 1965, the sixth grade children from Denver would not have been exposed to television until they were 5 years old because television didn’t get underway in Denver until 1952. On the other hand, children in New York would have been exposed to television since they were 1 year old as New York had televisions by 1940. During this time, children were exposed to television for up to 4 hours a day. There were also no restrictions on the adverts that children were exposed to as these restrictions only came about sometime in the 1960s and ‘70s. Of course violence on television was not as explicit as today but there were also not much shows geared for children. And parents were definitely not concerned that their children’s brain might rot or they become obese if they watched too much television.

If the premise that watching too much television causes poor school performance, the sixth graders from Denver should do well compare to those in New York because they were exposed to television less. So what did Gentzkow and Shapiro find? Here’s their conclusion:

“Finally, as a first step toward understanding the effects of programming variety on cognitive development, we have re-estimated our models using variation in the number of television stations broadcasting as an independent variable, and find no evidence of negative effects of greater broadcast variety on cognitive development.”

I rest my case.

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