The Dark Side of Television

The Dark Side of Television

Personally, I don’t watch much television, neither does anyone else in this house. Several reasons for this, not least of all the amount of time we all spend of computers and, moreso, the fact there’s beggar all worth watching! Adding up my sci-fi series and the odd movie premiere, it unusual for me to watch more than three hours a week. Typically I watch 45 minutes television a week!

My children used to watch children’s television on a Saturday morning, but after seeing a few hours of constant adult innuendo’s, dysfunctional games and general yobbish behaviour I have banned them from it! When I was a kid children’s television was the like of Black Beauty, Bill and Ben, Swapit Shop and (at its worst) the rather chaotic Tiswas. Now? In the UK at least, it seems to involve young presenters hinting at what goes on in the changing rooms, appalling use of English and grammar and – taking one game as an example – encouraging brats to pretend to vomit into a bucket, the most authentic one winning the prize.

As far as I’m concerned, the TV is degenerative and getting worse by the decade. And no, it’s not just me being an old fuddy duddy…

I’ve seen similar reports several times, but a recent article by Dr Aric Sigman brought it all to the fore. Here is a bullet list from his article in the Daily Mail (October 1st 2005), citing, amongst others, ‘Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Preventation’, ‘The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ and ‘The American Medical Association’.

Viewing even moderate amounts of television:*
*(As little as an hour a day!)

  • May damage brain cell development and function
  • Is positively linked to developing Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Is a direct cause of obesity
  • Significantly increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • May trigger premature puberty
  • Leads to a significantly elevated risk of sleep problems in adulthood, causing hormone changes which is turn increase body fat production and appetite, damages the immune system and may lead to a greater vulnerability to cancer. Smiley Boggle!
  • Is a major independent case of clinical depression (of which Britain has the highest rate in Europe)

The article also notes:

  • There is a strong link between early television exposure and ADHD. For every hour of television a child watches a day [scientists at the University of Washington] noted a nine percent increase in attentional damage.
  • (Albeit in a small test sample), children burned the equivalent of 211 calories fewer per day watching the TV, than doing nothing. On the face of it, this doesn’t make sense, but it does to me – thinking burns up calories, vegetating in front of the goggle box… I mean, how often do you see a fat academic!?
  • In Bhutan – the last country on earth to introduce TV – I was appalled to discover that since the arrival of 46 cable channels, the country was experiencing its first serious crime wave. Greed, avarice and selfishness had replaced traditional values of peace and respect
  • Television viewing among children under three seems to damage their future learning abilities – permanently. Maths, reading and comprehension are all said so suffer and that it isn’t just the fact they are watching instead of playing but that it is suspected that the audiovisual output from TV is actually damaging the child’s rapidly developing brain.

Presumably, the above is based on extracts from his new book, How Television Is Damaging Our Lives And What We Can Do About It., due to be published by Vermillion on October 6th. (ISBN: 0091902606 )

Pretty much – which is as damning a statement about mankind as any – bad news is good news (for advertisers) as it sells copy. The more depression, violent and depraved the viewing, the greater the audience figures. And with every passing decade the moral values of my generation and older are forgotten by accountants and by a culture obsessed with transient luxuries. For my thinking, the media is increasing controlled by executives that think nothing of paying £250 for an expensive wine on a night out, and openly sneer at anyone pointing to their ivory towers and shaking their head at the waste…

Actually, computers similarly have a raft of problems associated with them, but I at least try to temper it by seeing my own kids stick to more educational and mentally challenging games and sites and that they try to read at least a book a week. I think at their age I was actually reading a book every day or so, myself.

See also The Guardian (2007): The Dark Side of TV

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