A television looks harmless enough - just a box with brightly coloured images flickering on a screen. It is such a helpful device. It can keep a naughty child occupied while parents go about their business. People who live alone switch on the television as soon as they come home. It is a good companion, keeping up a soothing murmur in the background, and you do not have to put yourself out to make conversation. For others, television is the ultimate relaxation at the end of a tiring day. Just switch off your mind and stare at the images on the screen. The programmes are short with several commercial breaks. They make sure that you don't have to tax your mind at all. It is not surprising that television is also known as the idiot box.
The television can be quite insidious and seductive. While it has several educative channels and programmes, the truth remains that most adults and children are more attracted to the entertainment channels. Adults can put television into perspective, but young children are not so clear about where reality ends and fantasy begins. In addition, with the advent of satellite television there is no censorship for violence and brutality in television. A child armed with a remote could watch gory murders and programmes with sexual content not suitable for such young minds. Children are very impressionable and it is important to control what their minds are exposed to. Television characters are often exaggerated stereotypes that can distort children's expectations of people in day to day life. Parents have to act as censors for television programmes, books and more recently video games.
People have blamed the television for children flinging themselves off roofs and risking their necks doing foolhardy stunts in an attempt to emulate superheroes and athletic models in advertisements. Some people are of the opinion that brutality on television could be the direct cause for juvenile crime. Children are given the idea that violence is a means to power because villains are often portrayed as being more glamorous than the heroes. Violence also acquires a run-of-the-mill quality. After all, Tom and Jerry are constantly bashing each other and it is actually funny. And what about programmes that show prize fights and the huge wrestlers who pound each other to pulp for the gratification of a screaming public and still live to fight another day? Think about the message that is going out to the children.
There was a study done on the effect of brutality in television programmes on aggression in children. Results showed that the group of children who were exposed to violent television programmes exhibited a noticeably greater degree of aggression towards their toys and other children. On the other hand, the control group that was not allowed to watch violent programmes displayed less aggression.
Harassed parents often use the television like a pacifier for older children. This can result in some children becoming television addicts at quite a young age. What else can you expect when they can see cartoons twenty four hours a day? In addition, they have their parents' sanction to turn on the television for entertainment.
However, you know you have a problem when your child is glued to the television every free moment that he has. He prefers watching television to interacting with the rest of the family, or eating meals and his homework is a forgotten story. He plans his day according to the timings of his favourite programmes. Television can affect a child's sociability and interfere with his time for creative play. Even educational programmes on television are more interesting. The narrative is simple and the visuals are exciting and dramatic. Books and schoolwork tend to pale in comparison. This is not a healthy trend.
It is important that parents limit the hours that a child can watch television, besides censoring what he can watch. Television should not be allowed to interfere with meal times and sleeping hours. Parents should work out a timetable for watching television with their children. This should reduce the need for parents to constantly nag their children about watching television.
Television need not be viewed solely as a negative force. It has its advantages. Remember that even if a child is watching a good educational programme, he will not learn as much if he is watching alone. If he is watching with another child or an adult who makes comments or asks questions about the programme, this will help the child to bounce off ideas. Children who are interested in a particular programme may be motivated to read more about the subject of these programmes or question adults about it.
Parents have to resign themselves to the fact that television is here to stay. So they are just going to have to learn to deal with it. Prepare for several battles over 'TV time.' Exhausting, but somebody has to do it.