Can TV Make Us Stupid?

When I was growing up, Saturday mornings were reserved for one thing: cartoons. It was almost like a weekly celebration; no plans were made to interfere with it. My sister and I would sit, slack-jawed and bug-eyed, as we observed the holiday, taking in hours of animated entertainment. When I was ten, I became interested in writing short stories, and not long after that, I began drawing. My new interests absorbed me, and I didn’t want to do anything else. I determined that I didn’t have time for the box of flashing lights and pretty colors anymore. Creativity was more important to me, and it took up most of my free time. Unfortunately, my decision to shun television isn’t one that many children make, and the results can be unpleasant. From the types of programs children watch, to the time dedicated to viewing them, it’s easy to see how TV can help to inhibit learning.

Perhaps the trouble with television is in its convenience. We just flip it on and get instant gratification. It holds our attention for long stretches, amusing us, making us laugh, showing us lives that are full of excitement and challenge. The problem lies in that as large as the hurdles may be that the characters on the screen have to clear, we only have to sit and stare. On TV, the obstacles are of great proportions, and yet we merely watch, entranced. We’re not using our brains–not in the ways that we should be. We’re not thinking, because we’re not being challenged to think. This can be especially damaging to children. According to Dr. Daphne Miller, “Television hands kids all the answers, promoting passive learning and short attention spans. As a result, kids have difficulty concentrating and working hard to solve a problem.”

In addition to the effects television can have on a child’s developing mind, the time involved with the pastime, on average, is alarming. Most children will have watched 5,000 hours worth of television by the time they even start school. Then, the majority of kids will spend six hours in front of the TV for every hour spent tending to homework. Around the time students are graduating high school, they will have committed more time to television than they have to sitting in a classroom. Also, consider the hours taken away from activities not pertaining to school. Dr. Miller states that on average, children watch 25 hours of television per week. Those 25 hours could be used to play sports, to spend time with family, to draw, to build, to contemplate.

That’s not to say that all television is damaging. Shows like Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood were designed to educate, to enforce morals, and to encourage creativity. The Discovery Channel and the National Geographic Channel are also great sources of knowledge and intrigue, as well as the History Channel. But according to an article on educational programming written by Marina Krcmar and Kelly Fudge Albada, children watch a lot more fictional programs than shows that focus on learning. The majority of a child’s average 25 hours a week, then, consists of cartoons and sitcoms. For many hours throughout a seven day stretch, children will sit, silent and in awe, as sheer entertainment replaces their imagination and their reasoning, and becomes their teacher.

As hard as it may be, at times, to tear your own eyes away from the screen, devising a plan to ensure that your children get only the benefits of television is easy enough. Limiting the amount of time the children spend in front of the TV and monitoring which programs are viewed are some of the simplest ways to do so. Encouraging your children to pursue other interests can also help decrease their couch potato potential. Getting involved with sports would be a great way for your children to be passionate about something, as well as staying active and making friends. Introducing hobbies is another great way to challenge them. Inspiring them to study more, to spend more time with the family, to read, to explore, and to createâÂ?¦ These are the things that make up childhood, and they’re some of the most constructive and valuable ways for anyone to spend time. With a little help from you, hopefully your children will prefer to experience life, and to not just watch it.

Works Cited

Miller, Daphne M.D. Television’s effects on kids: It can be harmful. 20 August 1999.
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Krcmar , Marina and Albada, Kelly Fudge. The Effect of an Educational/Informational Rating on
Children’s Attraction To and Learning From an Educational Program. .

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