Mixed re­cep­tion in age- old TV de­bate

Is T V Bad for My Kids? 8.30pm LifeStyle

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - Greg Cal­laghan

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?

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