Television and our Children
by Mohammed Rawat
How much does t.v. influence our children? Is it an evil force that undermines family values? Does it promote indiscretion and total disregard of ethics?
Many people tend to enjoy relaxing after a rigorous day by observing the television. Sports, movies and documentaries provide a temporary escape from reality. However while adults are usually able to distinguish between fact and fiction the greater number of young children are not.
With the slackening of censorship, parents are beginning to show more concern for the development of their children. Sex, violence and bad language are accessible to even the most vulnerable of minds.
Added to that, some of the programmes televised for children not only threaten to destroy their innocence, but also jeopardise their creative thinking skills.
Anyone, who has seen a gaping, glassy-eyed child transfixed to the screen, entranced and totally oblivious to reality, has to question the motivational capacity of the medium. In front of this miniature stage, there is absolutely no demand for interaction whether physical or intellectual. No expectation of response is placed on the child, the entire process s passive. The child need not even exert his neck or eye muscles in order to follow the movement on the box. Ultimately, the inertia must have a serious effect on the child's intellectual abilities. Furthermore, a child absorbed in television is isolated, so the personal element is also eliminated.
The physical ramifications of spending one's childhood years glued to the set are obvious. Eye muscles become significantly weaker. The fact that more and more young children wear glasses these days perhaps bears testimony to the 'television worship' phenomenon. In addition, the mechanism itself - with its hypnotic fluttering of coloured spots on vibrating lines that compose the screen's picture has a proven damaging effect on the brain. In severe cases, it has been accused of triggering epileptic seizures in children.
Experts conclude that the natural strength of the 'television generation' child is also diminished considerably. As muscles are not constantly exercised, they invariably develop at a slower rate The effects that have been associated with television fixation (the comatose stare; the stunted development of muscles; the seizures; and the insinuation that television can alter behaviour) eerily parallel the symptoms of drug abusers. It is due to there harmful side effects that television has been given the disparaging nickname: 'the plug-in-drug'.
Some Western schools like the Michael Mount Waldorf School in Bryanston encourages a 'no television policy amongst parents of children below the age of twelve. Specialists in remedial teaching are completely committed to this stance: "Children develop through imitation, and the material that they imitate needs to be worthy of that imitation A child under the age six is still in the process of being 'ripened' by formative life forces. From the start, the child has no discernment. He or she is effectively like an absorbent sponge, full of wonder and awe, yet 'asleep in consciousness.' As parents and teachers, our aim is to awaken within them the search for truth and beauty." Television has become a replacement for mother-wisdom, that distinctive knowledge that only a parent can impart on a child. "The value of learning through life experience is depreciating. Experience should radiate through the eyes of parents and through their intimate gestures. Instead children absorb a fictional importation of experience via configurations of vibrating dots and lines on a screen.
Another quarrel she has with television is that it fosters 'the audience phenomenon,' an affliction that even majority of adults suffer from. Television viewing is explicitly a spectator sport, and a group of 'couch-spectators' is exactly what it cultivates. This phenomenon explains the motivation behind 'ambulance-chaser', and the traffic's infuriating tendency to slow down in order to study an accident on the other side of the road. The more gruesome the crash – the greater the chance of a traffic jam! Through television, we can witness murder, rape and robbery – without feeling any social responsibility to act! The medium is to blame for its failure to develop human interest, effectively training us to be passive. Translated into real life terms, many programmes instil within the individual a profoundly amoral disregard for others. Children are hardened acutely by this medium, and the space between people is widened dramatically. There is an unerring link between discipline problems and television: Children that are television addicts are conditioned to 'switch-off' the communications of a mother, father or teacher?
Among other things, television has also been accused of bringing about the death of spontaneous, imaginative play, which is infinitely valuable to the growth of the child. Unconstrained, active play provides a release for the natural, effervescent energy of childhood, and is said to help children fine-tune their emotions. If children use fantasy play to deal with their problems in a more objective, constructive manner, surely, y play bared on television clouds their own experience of life?
Then there is the obvious violence aspect to consider. While many psychologists believe that screen violence does influence the child, many object that it depends on the child's susceptibility to the fantasy medium. This theory proposes that only children with deep-rooted emotional problems will surrender themselves blindly to make believe, in order to escape their otherwise unstable world, or gain some power and control over it.
Observation of some children on a playground initially provided boisterous activities and high-pitched shrieks that filtered through the open air. On closer inspection, that play consisted of mimicking favourite television heroes and depraved villains. The names, characters, actions and expressions were fixed as was their typecasting as diametrically opposed forces of 'good' and 'evil'. Like any traditionally Cowboy and Indian battle, players had to be sacrificed for the cause, but the deaths were far more graphic than the 'finger-gun' gesture that we familiarise ourselves with as children. Victims were tortured with make-believe knives and abusive, verbal threats. One child was informed by a peer that if he did not hand over his money right away, his head would be chopped off!
While television cannot rob a child of his innate magic, it does seem that fantasy play is in danger of being hampered by the formulaic, pre-determined story lines designed for young viewers. Even worse, some of the games children play expose traces of scripts produced for 'adult' viewing only!
The word 'programme' (ostensibly alluding to a short riot of viewing rime) somehow seems to infer the programming effect it has on its viewer. Despite various shows that deliberately attempt to subvert the norm, television breeds conformity. Subliminal messages about society's values; prejudices and human aspirations are injected into the scripts. Good and evil are portrayed as one-dimensional attributes, along with the rationale that beauty must be equated with good while ugly is naturally associated with evil Subconsciously, this notion changes the child's perception of themselves and others, often with cruel consequences. Children below the age of seven lack the critical reasoning skills needed to maintain a sceptical distance from the stereotypes that are force-fed to them. Their need to reconcile inner consciousness and outward behaviour manifests itself in their play. [Little People]
Concerns about the effects of television on the behaviour and physical health of children are as old as the medium itself.
As early as 1951, researchers were claiming that children living in homes with television cut their playtime by as much as 90 minutes.
Shortly after, it was suggested that children's teeth would suffer owing to pressure on the gums as they watched television with their chin on their hands. Damage to eyes has been a continuing concern.
But by the mid-1980s, concern focused on the effects on the creative imagination of children. A range of theories emerged. Some said by providing ready-made images, television left little scope for the imagination.
Dr. Patti Valkenburg and Dr. Tom van de Voort, of the Centre of Child Media Studies at Leiden, have reviewed all the research carried out over 40 years, with disturbing results.
The studies they reviewed looked for differences in the creative imagination of children from homes with television compared with those form homes without.
Tests ranging teachers' assessments to games of 'just suppose' were carried out. Of the 17 studies analysed, covering many hundreds of children aged from three to 16, not one produced evidence that television boosted creativity.
In contrast, 10 of the studies showed that television was linked with a significant reduction in creative imagination.
After analysing decades of international research, the psychologists at Leiden University, Holland, have failed to find a single study backing the idea that television stimulates children.
They have, however, found plenty of evidence for every parent's worst suspicion: that watching television stifles a child's creative imagination.
They have also uncovered evidence that it boosts the tendency to lapse into random-and potentially violent daydreaming.
Neil Armstrong, professor of health and exercise sciences at Exeter University, believes television is playing a key role in the decline in fitness in British Children. "children are nowhere near as active as they should be," he said.
"Half of all girls and about a third of boys between 10 and 16 don't experience the equivalent of a brisk, 10-minute walk in a week and we suspect it may be linked to increased TV viewing.
"These children are building up major problems for the future. Only active children are likely to become active adults and we know the there are links between lack of exercise in later life and obesity, heart disease and osteoporosis in women."
"Whereas two-thirds of American women formerly remained at home, almost half now go out to work, of whom one in three is a mother with children under six.
Television, used as an electronic babysitter from the age of two, is a poor substitute for a mother's company and can prematurely desensitise the infant to violence." [The Medical Journal]
Comedy Link Seen in aggression
HOUSTON - Children who watch television a great deal tend to be more aggressive than those who spend more time in other activities, two Yale University psychologists said at the weekend.
And, surprisingly situation comedies and games as well as action programmes were linked with aggressive behaviour.
Doctors Jerome and Dorothy Singer were presenting the findings of a year-long study of 140 three and four year old children at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Their study found the more aggressive children tended to be in homes where the parents paid little attention to what programmes were being viewed, an were frequently from families that did little else besides watch television.
The Singers found that action programmes, as expected, produced the most marked effects, but said they were surprised to find that "frenetic situation comedies and game shows also tended to be associated with aggressive behaviour."
Regarding PICTURE MAKING Rasulullah (please be upon him) alayhi was sallam) said: "Every picture-maker will be in the Fire of Jahannum." Bukhaari