On an average of six times a day, there's a stranger in your house, a stranger
who has free access to your children and unlimited influence on their lives.
The task of the stranger is simple. Its goal is to limit our ability to
distinguish fantasy from reality. After all, that's what the stranger is
The stranger often teaches our children things we would detest. It uses language
which is gross and offensive. It shows our children things which are shocking
and repulsive. This stranger has no concern for the age, experience or
vulnerability of its victims. The stranger comes visiting at all hours without
warning and is devious regarding its true intent. Its messages are often
deceptive and appealing to young, innocent minds.
This stranger is cunning and has learned through years of practice and billions
of dollars in research, how to enter the very soul of its prisoners. It has
become an expert at exploiting audiences and trains them to go seek new
participants. Recently the stranger has been "transformed" into a plastic
cartridge which allows it to enter your home anytime and deliver its message
of demand without time constraints.
The stranger has become so accepted in our homes that it has been given a
place of honor in most of our rooms. It has even been allowed to join us
during meals, as long as the meals do not disturb its message. Ironically,
whenever the stranger joins us, it usually becomes the center of attention,
rather than a stranger. At our dining tables we allow it to talk about things
which would not be allowed during most family discussions.
Although this stranger can be crude, obscene and vulgar, we have decided
that it can explain some things better than parents. We have given it permission
to explain life, sex, family values, ethics and love. We depend upon it to
define our values and priorities. We've turned over child care and family
entertainment to its expertise. We've determined that we cannot live without
its stimulation, motivation and sublimation. We have submitted ourselves,
the lives of our children, to this stranger.
We spend untold hours telling our children of the dangers of strangers. We
teach them not to talk to strangers, walk with strangers, ride with strangers
or take things from strangers. However, with this special stranger, anything
Everyday for an average of six hours, we give our children to the "stranger
of the tube." Everyday the stranger talks to our children more than most
parents do in a month. We allow the stranger to teach them things and use
language for which we would have a real stranger arrested. We allow the stranger
to cheat, lie, demonstrate how to commit crimes and how to avoid, and beat,
our judicial system.
Without hesitation, the stranger mocks parents, belittles people of honor,
makes fun of moral values, denies honorable beliefs, and scoffs at family
and cultural traditions.
The stranger is powerful. It has thousands of employees who further its causes
and develop its sophistication. It is so powerful that if it stops performing,
we will use any means to acquire a new one immediately -- usually bigger,
better, louder, and more detailed and preferably with attachable appendages
to assist the stranger in accomplishing its purpose.
Recently some interested groups are advocating that the stranger should become
a regular part of the daily curriculum in our schools. It would be allowed
to visit our children without censorship or a preview of its presentation
or contents. It would also be allowed to advertise its supporters and special
Fortunately, the stranger is not entirely evil. Like any visitor, it has
characteristics of value and interest. However, its behavior and influence
on the lives of our children must be monitored. Parents must determine how
much influence they want to turn over to the stranger when it is visiting.
There's a stranger in your house. It's keeping our children from doing their
homework. It's preventing parents and children from talking together. The
stranger is coming between members of the family. It has become the center
of our society. We might consider scheduling its visits, and determining
what we will allow the stranger to discuss and demonstrates when it visits
TV Linked to Kids' Attention Problems
Apr 5, 6:49 AM (ET)
By Lindsey Tanner
CHICAGO (AP) - Researchers have found that every hour preschoolers watch
television each day boosts their chances - by about 10 percent - of developing
attention deficit problems later in life.
The findings back up previous research showing that television can shorten
attention spans and support American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations
that youngsters under age 2 not watch television.
"The truth is there are lots of reasons for children not to watch television.
Other studies have shown it to be associated with obesity and aggressiveness"
too, said lead author Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a researcher at Children's
Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle.
The study, appearing in the April issue of Pediatrics, focused on two groups
of children - aged 1 and 3 - and suggested that TV might overstimulate and
permanently "rewire" the developing brain.
The study involved 1,345 children who participated in government-sponsored
national health surveys. Their parents were questioned about the children's
TV viewing habits and rated their behavior at age 7 on a scale similar to
measures used in diagnosing attention deficit disorders.
The researchers lacked data on whether the youngsters were diagnosed with
attention deficit disorders but the number of children whose parents rated
them as having attention problems - 10 percent - is similar to the prevalence
in the general population, Christakis said. Problems included difficulty
concentrating, acting restless and impulsive, and being easily confused.
About 36 percent of the 1-year-olds watched no TV, while 37 percent watched
one to two hours daily and had a 10 percent to 20 percent increased risk
of attention problems. Fourteen percent watched three to four hours daily
and had a 30 percent to 40 percent increased risk compared with children
who watched no TV. The remainder watched at least five hours daily.
Among 3-year-olds, only 7 percent watched no TV, 44 percent watched one to
two hours daily, 27 percent watched three to four hours daily, almost 11
percent watched five to six hours daily, and about 10 percent watched seven
or more hours daily.
In a Pediatrics editorial, educational psychologist Jane Healy said the study
"is important and long overdue" but needs to be followed up to confirm and
better explain the mechanisms that may be involved.
The researchers didn't know what shows the children watched, but Christakis
said content likely isn't the culprit. Instead, he said, unrealistically
fast-paced visual images typical of most TV programming may alter normal
"The newborn brain develops very rapidly during the first two to three years
of life. It's really being wired" during that time, Christakis said.
"We know from studies of newborn rats that if you expose them to different
levels of visual stimuli ... the architecture of the brain looks very different"
depending on the amount of stimulation, he said.
Overstimulation during this critical period "can create habits of the mind
that are ultimately deleterious," Christakis said. If this theory holds true,
the brain changes likely are permanent, but children with attention problems
can be taught to compensate, he said.
The researchers considered factors other than TV that might have made some
children prone to attention problems, including their home environment and
mothers' mental states.
The American Academy of Pediatrics said in 1999 that children under the age
of 2 should not watch television because of concerns it affects early brain
growth and the development of social, emotional and cognitive skills.
Jennifer Kotler, assistant director for research at Sesame Workshop, which
produces educational children's television programs including "Sesame Street,"
questioned whether the results in the April Pediatrics would apply to educational
"We do not ignore this research," but more is needed on variables that could
affect the impact of early exposure to television, including whether content
or watching TV with a parent makes a difference, Kotler said.
"There's a lot of research... that supports the positive benefits of educational
programming," she said.
The Hidden Dangers of Television
Children's development needs
Children learn so much in their first three years compared to the rest of
their lives. They learn to walk, to speak and experience the awakening of
thinking as they grow from being babies to infants. Through play, children
develop their knowledge of things, their relationships
Television watching itself affects child development regardless of the programme
content. Recent research show that television watching adversely affects
children's thinking, speaking, imagination, senses, physique, feelings, and
behaviour. It is important for parents to be aware of these effects.
T.V. watching as an experience
Television watching puts children into a passive, trance-like state where
they become "TV zombies" a condition quite different from their active, playful
state when not watching. Some parents observed that: "my five year old goes
into a trance when he watches TV He just gets locked into what is happening
on the screen. He's totally, absolutely absorbed when he watches and oblivious
to anything else." After television watching children can be irritable. "After
watching they're nervous, bored, disagreeable, slowly coming back to normal."
What, then, do children experience while watching television?
Marie Winn calls television the 'plug-in-drug' because many people find they
cannot stop watching. People joke about being "hooked on TV" Someone said
"I watch TV the way an alcoholic drinks."
Not unlike drugs and alcohol, TV watching allows the participant to blot
out the real world and enter into a pleasurable and passive mental state,
where worries and anxieties cannot intrude. The typical vacant state of someone
on drugs or alcohol is very similar to the state of the TV watcher.
The eyes need to be completely passive in order to watch TV i.e. a fixed
focus, no voluntary eye movements and a fixed head position. It is as if
instead of the imagery arising from within as in day dreaming, it is produced
mechanically for the watcher by the television.ips with other children, their
physical control and their imagination. Playing is a child's work, and channels
energy constructively into the learning processes. It is essentially active.
Children learn through imitating other children and the adults who tell stories,
nursery rhymes, speak with them, and who can provide everyday activities
such as baking or making pictures.
TV retards brain development
The brain is patterned by the senses, by movement, speech, thought and
imagination. As the brain develops, children shift from a non-verbal "right
hemisphere" dreaming consciousness to a verbal, logical "left hemisphere"
state. Television watching prolongs children's dependency on the right
hemisphere. The "brain" strain on children of forming 625 lines composed
of over 800 dots appearing 25 times per second - into meaningful images must
be considerable. With the lack of eye movement, this strain can produce
sleeplessness, anxiety, nightmares, headaches, perceptual disorders, poor
concentration and blunted senses. T. V. watching can produce sensory deprivation.
TV and speaking
Children learn to speak by talking with real people, not by listening to
mechanically reproduced sound. Real people speaking communicate the meaning
of words, whereas television only reproduces the sounds, a subtle but vital
difference, confusing for toddlers. Television by emphasising the visual,
reduces the need of children to learn how to speak; no verbal response is
required of the child; thus speech is discouraged.
Members of a working-party on reading agreed that "Children knew nursery
rhymes much less well than previously, largely because of television which
was a "look and forget" rather than a "look and learn" medium.
TV encourages lazy readers
Reading involves concentration, accurate perception, imagination, the
comprehension of a story line, and the freedom of the reader to vary the
pace. Television, by causing the "vacant state" undermines concentration;
by an overwhelming visual impact stultifies the imagination; by blunting
the senses, interferes with the mechanics of reading; and by emphasising
the nonverbal reduces children's enthusiasm for words.
A reduced sense of identity
Before television, there was a children's culture rich in games, songs and
rhymes. Children could play longer, sustain interest more, play dramatically
and were more active according to experienced nursery teachers. Television
watching puts children into an untypically passive state in which they are
deprived of their true work which is their play.
Children develop their sense of identity, of saying "I" to themselves in
meeting real people. The people on TV are unreal, impersonal images which
do little or nothing to awaken a child's sense of self. Hence "TV children"
may tend to relate to themselves and others as things, objects, tools or
even machines. This attitude may later develop into an inability to react
constructively in social situations.
The content of violent programmes may affect children's behaviour, for children
learn by imitation. However, the nature of the TV experience regardless of
programme content may cause antisocial behaviour. Relating to others more
as objects than human beings, a result of TV watching, can contribute to
violence. Also, the television experience gives an illusion of participating
in an activity when in fact one is totally passive, so that children who
are heavy viewers are less able to judge the feelings, expectations and problems
of others in real life situations.
The effects of radiation
Radiation and artificial light may affect children's health and vitality.
The scientist Ott found that beans' growth in front of a TV set was distorted
by toxic radiation into a vine like growth, with roots growing upwards out
of the soil. Ott questioned what the excessive absorption of artificial light
might do to children.
Almost no educational benefit
Which is better qualified to teach a young child, a machine or another human
being? Experienced teachers have noted that children who watch quite a lot
of television retain very little of its content after a short while (The
"look and forget" Medium). This could be due to the fact that the children
are not called-upon to be active; they are not engaging their will-power
and creating their own imaginative pictures. The impression left by the TV
images is superficial.
The American programme "Sesame Street" was specially designed to help
disadvantaged pre-school children catch up cognitively and verbally with
those from more fortunate backgrounds. A 1975 survey suggests that "Sesame
Street" widened the achievement gap, and that light viewers exhibited more
gains in learning than heavy viewers.
What can we do?
If you feel, after reading this, that you would like to change your family's
habits with regard to television, how should you go about it? First, make
sure that both parents are in agreement. Then realise that it will be difficult
to get rid of television without putting other things in its place, especially
if your family have been heavy viewers.
1 - Restrict firmly the number of programmes watched, or, if you are resolute
enough, get rid of the TV set altogether. Or put it away and use it only
for very special occasions.
2 - Offer alternative activities of a creative sort, e.g. crafts, puppetry,
dressing-up drawing and painting, modelling, pets, various hobbies, sports,
music, fork dancing, nature studies, gardening.
3 - Encourage reading of well-written books (classics). Read aloud to little
4 - Aim at a positive and warm family life, interesting mealtimes, bedtime
stories, singing, nursery rhymes, etc.
5 - Try to find friends who think the same way and help each other, e.g.
organising children's parties together.