Beware of Television
It is considered that one of the greatest inventions of the twentieth
centurythe televisioncompletely changed the way of a person’s life.
Television has brought into every home a lot of information and easy-to-reach
entertainment. Is its influence on the personality, family, or children
positive only or is there another side of the coin? Yes, there is. A negative
one. The effect of television depends not only on the content of its programs,
but there are more general aspects of influence of TV viewing on intellectual
activity. To make sure of that we need to look scrupulously at every aspect of
this phenomenon in general, not emphasizing on the quality and content of its
An abundance of information pouring into a person’s consciousness at a
fast pace does not allow him to analyze and comprehend it properly. For example,
let us make a comparison between reading and viewing. The pace of reading,
clearly, depends entirely upon the reader. He may read as slowly or as rapidly
as he can or wishes to read. If he does not understand something, he may stop
and reread it, or go in search of elucidation before continuing. The reader can
accelerate his pace when the material is easy or less than interesting, and slow
down when it is difficult or enthralling. He can put down the book for a few
moments and cope with his emotions without fear of losing anything.
Unlike reading, the pace of the television experience cannot be
controlled by the viewer; he cannot slow down a delightful program or speed up a
dreary one. The images move too quickly. He cannot use his own imagination to
invest the people and events portrayed on the screen with the personal meanings
that would help him understand and resolve relationships and conflicts in his
own life; he is under the power of the show creators’ imagination. He becomes a
passive consumer of the TV production; like drugs or alcohol, the television
experience allows the participant to blot out the real world and enter into a
pleasurable and passive mental state. Like an addict, he puts off other
activities to spend hour after hour watching TV and finds television almost
Television affects family life. In the early sixties almost each
magazine articles about television was accompanied by a photograph or
illustration showing a family cozily sitting together before the television set:
Dad with his arm around Mom’s shoulder, children sitting around the parents.
Who could have guessed that thirty or so years later Mom would be watching a
drama in the kitchen, the kids would be looking at cartoons in their room, while
Dad would be taking in the ball game in the living room? Nor did anyone imagine
the number of hours children would eventually devote to television or the common
use of television by parents as a child pacifier.
The adult has a vast backlog of real-life experience, the child has not.
So, the influence of television on a child’s consciousness is considerably
greater. “Suppose there wasn’t any TVwhat do you think your child would do
with the time now spent watching TV?” This question was asked to a large number
of mothers of first graders in survey published in the Surgeon General’s Report
on Television and Social Behavior. Ninety percent of mothers answered that
their child would be playing in some form or another if he were not watching
television. Play is one of the most important activities to develop a child’s
abilities. Playing with others requires the child to suppress his own wishes
and desires to a certain degree, self-control must be learned. Not only must
each child discover the need to suppress certain of his own impulses, but he
must also discover the difficulties that attend the varying levels of aggression
normally existing among his playmates. The more aggressive child must learn to
find less aggressive ways to achieve his ends, while the milder-natured child
must learn to protect himself and to maintain his integrity in the face of a
more forceful companion. This horrible time-eater, the television set, has
robbed the child of his normal opportunities to play, to talk, to do.
Why don’t parents restrict their children’s TV consuming? Of course,
they should not prohibit it because that would create an image of “forbidden
fruit” and thus make it more attractive. Only a wrong conception of democracy
may help to explain why they have such difficulties controlling TV. But do you
allow your three-year-old son to walk around with a sharp knife or allow your
little daughter to cross the street by herself? What’s the difference between
restricting television and protecting your child from other danger that they say
they cannot control? Both are equally dangerous.
I do not deny television has its positive qualities. I would like to
say only that it is a double-edged weapon and needs to be used with caution.
Some say that everything is medicine and everything is poison, and only dose
determines what it would be. We should learn to control that real and tangible
machine in our homes, so that it does not control us.
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