THERE is mounting evidence that the rapid movements of sounds and images on TV is a major cause of hyperactivity. The worst thing one can do for a hyperactive child is to put him in front of the TV set.
The physical energy which is created by the images, but not used, is stored in the child's body. Then when the TV is switched off, this suppressed energy bursts outward in aimless, random, speedy activity.
"I have seen it over and over again in children. They are quiet while watching. Then afterwards they become overactive, irritable and frustrated," notes Jerry Mander in Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television.
In the highly acclaimed book, The Plug-In Drug, Marie Winn refers to the writings of Dr Matthew Dumont (Harvard Medical School) that support this view.
- Hyperactive behaviour in children is related to the rapidly changing TV scenes.
- The behaviour of the hyperactive child represents an attempt to recapture the flickering quality of television. (Television flickers at an average rate of about once every 3.5 seconds. The average child — ie an American child - in the crucial formative years of birth through age 5 watches over 5,000 hours of TV. That may be too much for a young child's neurological system.)
ACCORDING to some reports, the hypnotic fluttering of coloured spots on vibrating lines that compose a TV screen's picture has a proven damaging effect on the brain. In severe cases, it has been accused of triggering epileptic seizures in children.
Early discoveries about the biological effects of very minor stimuli by W. Ross Adey and others, and the growing incidence of TV epilepsy among those particularly sensitive to flicker, have shown that whether we consciously note the flicker or not, our bodies react to it.
MORE PASSIVE THAN LYING IN BED
BODY metabolism (and calorie burning) is an average of 14.5% lower when watching TV than when simply lying in bed, says a Memphis State University study.
In another study conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine (reported in JAMA, 27 October 1999), it was concluded that reducing television use may be a promising population-based approach to prevent childhood obesity.
If your child is too fat for no good genetic reason, it could not only be because of inactivity from sitting in front of the TV, but also because he or she has picked up the wrong dietary habits from advertising that promotes unhealthy food.
"Living with television means growing up in a world of about 22,000 commercials a year, 5,000 of them for food products, more than half of which are for low-nutrition sweets and snacks," says Dr George Gerbner, Dean of the Annenburg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania.
Childhood obesity could lead to chronic diseases in adulthood, like heart disease and high blood pressure.
TV is also a relationship rotter. It not only isolates the child from the environment, but also from family, especially parents.
Parents are the developing brain's first and most important influence. The waking hours babies spend in front of a TV robs them of the time for parent-child interaction and their own playtime — 2 activities crucial for the development of intelligence and imagination.
Too much TV watching can also turn a child into a social misfit as he or she is deprived of interaction with their peers.
Studies have found that children who watched less TV tend to have more interests and participate in more activities where they can learn to get along with other children (as well as family members).
Studies have also demonstrated that children who watch too much TV become less patient, less settled and less able to appreciate the concept of delayed gratification.
WATCHING too much TV can also cause eye fatigue, which might interfere with a child's concentration on schoolwork. That is why eye doctors normally advise against sitting too close to the TV screen.
Contrary to popular belief, our eyes are not active during TV viewing. In fact, the eyes move less while watching TV than in any other experience of daily life.
Although doctors say watching TV does not ruin your eyesight, some researchers have argued that nearsightedness is a "product of civilisation". (TV is one of many products of civilisation.)
This was illustrated in a study in the late 60s of eyesight among Eskimoes in Barrow, Alaska, who had been introduced to the joys of civilisation around World War 2. The incidence of nearsightedness in those age 56 and above was 0%, in parents aged 30 and above (8%), and in their children (59%).
IN The Overspent American, Harvard economist Juliet Schor points out that the more TV a person watches, the more he or she spends. Her research shows that each additional hour of TV watched per week lead to an additional US$208 (about RM790) of annual spending (for adults). As those surveyed watched 11.5 hours of TV per week, this cost them more than US$2,300 (about RM8,740) a year in unneeded expenditures.
Today's children raised on TV, and influenced by TV advertising, could grow up having unnecessary wants too.
THE many messages on TV that promotes alcohol consumption and promiscuous sexual activity are also a cause for concern. American teenagers for example, see an estimated 14,000 sexual references and innuendoes per year on TV, yet only 150 of these references deal with sexual responsibility, abstinence or contraception.
PARENTS, TEACHERS & FRIENDS LOSE TO TV
ACCORDING to a hypothesis, if a pre-schooler watches 3 hours of TV a day, by the time he or she is 18, they would have spent more time in front of the television set than they have spent in school, and far more than they have spent talking with their teachers, their friends or even their parents.
In the US, it has been found that by age 5, youngsters have amassed at least 5,000 hours of TV viewing. That's the equivalent time it takes for an adult to earn a 4-year college degree!
By first grade (equivalent to Std 1 here), most children have spent the equivalent of 3 school years in front of the TV set.
According to an AAP study in 1990, by the time today's child reaches 70, he or she will have spent an approximate 7 years watching TV.
MURDERS IN THE LIVING ROOM
TV teaches children bad values. For example, it contains substantial amounts of "irregular driving" — squealing brakes, speeding, screeching tyres and property damage. In such scenes, death and injury are (unrealistically) infrequent and legal penalties rare.
Parents wouldn't invite a stranger into their home to demonstrate an actual murder, but for many youngsters, the terror on the screen might as well be taking place in their living room. As most young children have difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy, this might affect them psychologically.
Violence on TV doesn't teach children about the world. In fact, TV actually has 10 times as much violence as real life.
A UNIVERSITY of Alabama study in 1998 has found 73 incidents of TV falling on children, of which 28 died. The research covering data from 1990 to 1997, showed the injured children — newborns to 11-year-olds — commonly suffered a blow to the head.
Such accidents happen because young children tend to climb up the stand to reach the TV set — because they are attracted by the colours and sounds.
- Ban for children under 2 — American Academy of Pediatrics
- Less than 1 hour a day of TV for very young children; 2 hours or less a day for early school-aged children — Canadian Pediatric Society
- No TV for children at all until age 5 — LimiTV, a non-profit North Carolina corporation that educates parents, teachers and children about the harm of excessive TV watching.
- "No television" policy among parents of children under 12 — Recommendation by specialists in remedial teaching
- TOTAL BAN for everyone — Jerry Mander, author of Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television