The Boob Tube: What the experts say

Everyone knows that TV is the devil. It turns us and our children into mindless drones who can’t play creatively, can’t resist the myriad advertisements that interrupt our viewing, can’t concentrate on any task for more than a few minutes. It is responsible for childhood obesity (particularly among low-income children), If it’s so bad, why do so many of us watch so much of it? If it’s so bad, then what does that say about all of us who grew up watching TV, and not the “educational” shows on PBS, Nick Jr., and Disney today, but McGyver, Nightrider and the Dukes of Hazzard?

In an article in Slate, The Benefits of Bozo: Proof that TV doesn’t harm kids, the author talks about one key problem with all the research into how terrible TV is for kids:

Most studies of the impact of television, however, are seriously flawed. They compare kids who watch TV and kids who don’t, when kids in those two groups live in very different environments…Because of their income advantage, the less-TV kids have all sorts of things going for them that have nothing to do with the impact of television.

Although, personally, I’m still on the fence about whether all research findings come down to socio-economic status (poverty being a topic for another day), this is an interesting point.

The moral of this story? All research is not created equal. Be very, very discerning about what you put your faith in, and be a smart consumer of information. In this, as in everything, read the labels!

Not surprisingly, the Turnoff TV organization has plenty of statistics on their website

“The heart of Johnson’s argument is…that today’s pop-culture consumer has to do more “cognitive work”–making snap decisions and coming up with long-term strategies in role-playing video games, for example, or mastering new virtual environments on the Internet– than ever before. Johnson makes a compelling case that even today’s least nutritional TV junk food–the Joe Millionaires and Survivors so commonly derided as evidence of America’s cultural decline–is more complex and stimulating, in terms of plot complexity and the amount of external information viewers need to understand them, than the Love Boats and I Love Lucys that preceded it.” Reviewed on Amazon.com. Reviewed by the New Yorker. About the book on Wikipedia.org.

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