Watching television is an extremely common past time for children. Whether it is Saturday morning cartoons or a movie while parents are getting household chores done television is an activity that most children take part in at some point. When they are viewing we never stop to think about the negative effects and influences that this activity may have on them. “There is no sight quite so haunting as a child and a television set. Before the tube – flickering rather like the altar to an ancient demon – the child prostrates itself, spellbound. â€¦ Whoever watches the child in its passive but awesome detachment knows the meaning of the word addictions” (Maddocks). While viewing television may seem like a harmless way to keep children busy it severely hinders their development.
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From the moment a child opens their eyes and starts to take in the world around them they are learning and trying to make sense of what they see and feel. The way that a child develops will depend greatly upon the influences around them and one very prevalent influence is television. Children start viewing television at a very young age and with all of the shows being developed specifically to target young children parents may not see the reasons to avoid this activity. Allowing young children to view television can cause several developmental issues. These issues include everything from hindering language development and encouraging passive learning to decreasing their ability and drive to read.
The first major developmental issue that young children face from viewing television is that their language development suffers. Children who watch television lose the opportunity “to learn grammatical aspects of language through social interaction” (Comstock, Scharrer 160) because they are engaged in a type of one way conversation with the television. While some may argue that there are educational shows that do encourage active social interaction it has also been shown that “the quality of verbal engagement with television is low” (Lemish 155) and that young children “are unable to absorb anything of value from television, or at least anything that would be as developmentally stimulating as playing with toys and interacting with others” (Comstock, Scharrer 149).
Passive learning is another serious issue that young children face from viewing television. Just because a show may seem educational does not mean that it is actually beneficial for a child. There is “ample evidence that child TV watchers exhibit lower intelligence scores compared to non-watchers” (Gunter, McAleer 122). The main reason for this is because children can not learn from a television show if they do not pay attention to it and getting a child to actively pay attention to a show is hard if you do not have it balanced just right with different “[p]rogram elements that are moderately novel and somewhat familiar, not too complex but not too simple, not entirely incongruous but not overly ‘wholistic,’ neither entirely repetitive nor unpredictable, neither too surprising nor expected” (Comstock, Sharrer 148). Therefore the process of holding a childs attention isa seriously precarious balance of elements that needs to take place. In view of the fact that a child’s attentiveness depends on all these areas being just right generally “[b]oredom enters, [and] interest suffers” (Comstock, Sharrer 148) causing children to sit and watch passively rather than being truly engaged in what they are doing. As they continue with this activity this learned passivity grows making it easier and easier for “children [to] perceive television as easy and therefore invest less mental effort in processing television content. This attitudeâ€¦ could be transferred to other cognitive tasks, essentially cultivating a style of shallow ‘mindless’ processing.” (Pecora, Murray, Wartella 73). In the end “television programmes essentially train children to passively sit and watch rather than to actively think and do” (Gunter, McAleer 122) which catastrophically effects the development of the child because this learned passivity can follow them through their entire lives.
Not only can television ruin language development and promote passive learning but it can also devastate a young child’s drive to read. Comstock and Scharrer said that during the development stage of young children viewing television can overshadow their effort to learn how to read (128). When children are allowed to view they come to “see television as an easy and pleasurable form of entertainment, which provides more direct satisfaction than books” (Pecura, Murray, Wartella 73). As this happens children will come to believe that “reading is difficult and effortful, whereas television viewing is easy. Consequently, given the choice, children will choose to watch television rather than read” (Pecura, Murray, Wartella 71).
Imagination is fundamental to the development of young children. It “is one of the most important ways in which pre-school children learn about their environment” (Gunter, McAleer 122). The best way for children to exercise their imagination is by becoming involved in the world around them. Gunter and McAleer found that “cognitive growth of the child depends very much on how often and to what extent his or her imagination is exercised” (122). Sadly the more television a child views the less likely they are to use their own imagination because viewing not only takes up time that might have otherwise been spent in play but it also removes the child from coming up with his or her own ideas, instead they just copy what they have already seen (Comstock, Scharrer 155). Additionally viewing some types of television, such as violence, has been shown to result in “significantly decreased time spent on fantasy activities” (Comstock, Scharrer 155) thus continuing the destruction of one of the most imperative ways in which young children develop.
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Viewing violence on television is yet another serious issue to a developing child. As a child is learning about their world “watching violence may increase the child’s tolerance for real-life violence either by implying that such behavior is normal or by making real-life violence seem trivial by comparison” (Gunter, McAleer 82). Exposing young children to the abundance of violence on television also allows them to see “the functionality of violent behaviors” (Lemish 73) causing them to act out, even those “without a predisposition to violence” (Lemish 70). Once a child chooses to act violently to get what they want the continued “viewing [of] violence may serve to remove inhibitions in performing violent acts through the process of desensitization to their implications, as well as, a process of legitimization of such behaviors as being normal and acceptable in society” (Lemish 74). In the end viewing violence not only teaches children to ignore any violent acts they may witness but also partake in these behaviors to get what they want.
Finally there is the effect of advertising on young children. As children view television they not only partake in television programs but also the commercials that come on during those programs. This can complicate television viewing for young children because they “lack the necessary cognitive skills to defend themselves against what are often highly attractive and skillfully worded persuasive messages” (Gunter, McAleer 105). Add to that the fact that “the faces and voices prevalent on television advertisements are often the same as those seen and heard in other contexts on popular television shows” (Gunter, McAleer 104) and it is nearly impossible for children to discern between regular television programming and commercials. If a child sees a beloved cartoon character advertising some product then that child is more likely to “pressure parents into purchasing products” (Gunter, McAleer) which can lead to “[d]isappointment, conflict and even anger â€¦ when parents deny requests” ( research on the effects of 144). Generally when a child is upset about not getting what he or she asks for these feelings “strain parent-child relations” (research on the effects of tv advertising on children 133)
The only question left is why anyone who knows about all the negative effects of television would still allow their child to continue viewing. Viewing television as a young child is not worth all the negative influences that come from the violence and commercials as well as the mountain of passive learning, reading, and language development issues incurred. Allowing young children to take part in watching television can ruin their chance at developing successfully.
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