Sunday, May 20, 2007

"Boob Tube" Babies II

For some reason the computer gremlins caused a glitch for this post and readers could not make comments. So, I'm running it again in hopes that whatever it was got straightened out. Below is my original post. If this don't work I'm giving up on this one.


A couple of weeks ago the thought for the day in the papers was a quotation from Canadian born educator Laurence J. Peter (1919-1990). The late Dr. Peter was a Doctor of Education out on the West Coast and his main claim to fame was the formulation of the Peter Principle. His thought for the day was "Television has changed the American child from an irresistible force into an immovable object".

On the same day that Dr. Peter's quote was in the paper it was noted that 46 years ago on May 9, 1961, FCC Chairman Newton N. Minow condemned television programming as a "vast wasteland" in a speech to the National Association of Broadcasters. Mr. Minow was a lawyer by trade, was appointed FCC Chairman by JFK and was later the first chairman of PBS. He was not a popular man with Hollywood producers and screen writers. The ill fated boat of Gilligan's Island was named the S.S. Minnow as a slam toward the man.

All of this got me thinking about one of my favorite pet peeves and I decided to do a little research into the effects of television on the human brain. Lord, I could have spent months going through all that has been written. When I Googled "effects on children, television, thinking, logic" the search engine came back with 1.14 million results. As you can see there is a wealth of information available on the subject.

The name "Boob Tube" for television is not an original with me. It's been in use for years. I first experienced the effects some thirty years ago when I was assigned the task to help train younger new hire peers on how to do my job. The job wasn't difficult if you logically proceeded from step 1 through the succeeding steps to the end. The procedure wasn't difficult. However, the kids were having problems following the steps even after they had written them down. They would forget to check their notes! I thought my God, this is the future of our country. Since then I have found it is rare to find a kid that is the exception to the rule. There are some but they are few and far in between. It is especially evident in this area with the lack of good paying available jobs and that leads to brain drain of our best and brightest.

Researchers have found that television can lead to a physically altered brain because it is a passive activity. Parking a kid in front of a t.v. to get them out of your hair is doing more harm than many people would think. Once a child that grew up with heavy doses of television viewing gets to adulthood they have trouble trying to figure things out rationally. They have difficulty thinking in abstractions such as cause and effect. School districts are finding they have to spend increasing amounts of their budgets for remedial training. Psychologist Jane Healy, author of Endangered Minds: Why Children Don't Think & What Can Be Done About It, says it's not the teachers or school's fault. By the time a child exposed to a lot to television viewing reaches school age they have problems understanding and grasping the basic elements of their educational regime.

When reading printed word a person can stop and think about what they have just read. They can kick it around in their mind as to why and what they just read. Then they can continue on reading more. Television doesn't allow for that. It thinks for you and moves on rapidly not giving you time to decipher the subject. Once a subject flashes by on television it's gone and they're moving on to the next segment. With the printed word you can cogitate all the time you want before moving on. You have time to think in abstractions as to the cause & effect of what you just read without worrying about missing the next scene.

In addition to the mental problems there is a litany of physical ones that can be attributed to being a "couch potato" television fan. Obesity which can lead to many ailments is chief among them. If you got your butt glued to the seat you're not burning calories that would normally be used up in other activities. Obesity can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure and foot and knee problems caused by the weight you're carrying. British psychologist Dr. Aric Sigman wrote a book entitled Remotely Controlled. He did a vast study of medical and other professional reports from around the world for his research. In it he also said that a heavy television schedule can lead to vision problems, sleep problems, autism, lack of concentration and Attention Deficit Disorders. ADD was virtually unheard of before the rise of television. Dr. Sigman suggest that parents ration television time and participate in what the child is viewing explaining real life situations versus what's shown on the tube. He also thinks that televisions should come with warning labels about the risks much the same as is on cigarette packs and bottles of booze.

Television was invented by engineer John Logie Baird (1888-1946) on October 2, 1925, in Glascow, Scotland. I wonder if he foresaw the problems his invention would bring to society. I doubt it. I barely touched on the social ills that many people attribute to television. I could go on and on but hopefully you get the gist. Hit the off button and get active.