Mixed reception in age- old TV debate
Is T V Bad for My Kids? 8.30pm LifeStyle
IN answer to your question, ‘‘ Is TV bad for my kids?’’ please type those six words — in that order — into Google, where you will receive the first 10 of 38,900,000 responses. Conveniently, you will find the BBC’s Panorama program — and tonight’s episode — right at the top of your results list. That doesn’t mean you will get the answer to your question by going to the website and skipping the show, however.
That’s because there is no definitive litmus test for determining the myriad effects — subtle and otherwise — television and its successors ( video games and the PC) have on our lives. Their influence has become far too intense and all- pervasive for a single good, or bad, answer.
If you’re under the age of 55, you almost certainly grew up with at least one TV in your house. Now, more than 80 per cent of children in most Western countries have a TV or PC in their bedrooms.
The war of facts over whether TV is good or bad for children continues to rage, however. TV ratchets up levels of aggression in children. TV calms kids down when they become angry or hyperactive. TV can be an effective learning tool. Kids who watch lots of TV concentrate less in the classroom. TV promotes tolerance of others. TV reinforces stereotypes.
The arguments over TV and children are bitter because the stakes are so high. Studies show that violent video games do increase aggression in young boys. And that hypersexualised pop videos stimulate precociousness in girls. Tonight’s show serves up a tantalising experiment.
A class of seven and eight- year- old English children have their TVs, PCs and video games removed from their homes for two weeks. Overseeing this is psychologist Barry Gunter, a professor at the University of Leicester, who assesses the impact on their schoolwork and home life.
‘‘ It’s going to be an absolute nightmare,’’ says one mother, who uses TV to pacify her two young girls and — eek! — send them to sleep. For young James, pictured, a soccer fanatic, the hardest part about being telly- less is not being able to watch any matches. It drives him crazy when he hears his old man watching the game in the next room on his laptop. TV gets blamed by time- poor parents for having negative effects on their kids but it’s a convenient tool of distraction when they need to attend to things around the home. Being without a TV would mean they would have to work harder as parents. At exercise. At playing board games. At reading stories.
What are the results of Panorama ’ s experiment? Tune in, because it just may be worth it for your family.
Captive audience: James watches a portable T V in Is TV Bad for My Kids?