Despite the many drawbacks of TV, it has become a fixture in nearly every American home. According to Joseph Chilton Pearce, 'The major damage of TV has little to do with content. Its damage is neurological - TV floods the infant child brain with ready made images at the very time it is supposed to learn to make images from within.' The inadequacy begins to show in the classroom and on the playground.
The importance of nurturing the child's imagination with the reality of the world can hardly be overemphasized. Every scientific discovery or invention is a product of someone's imagination. Young children must experience reality to build and develop their perceptions to the optimized level. The period between zero and seven years is ideal to stimulate a child's imagination and provide means for it to be activated. Playing house or story-telling encourages children to imagine the characters and scenes in the story.
TV, on the other hand, deadens creativity during these formative years because the images are already created for the viewer. TV is like a monologue - it gives no opportunity to respond or interact. Talking to children, reading to them or telling them stories provide much richer language experiences than TV during these critical years.
In recent years watching excessive TV has been blamed for many problems of children of all ages. Because the time spent watching TV greatly decreases the time for normal exercise it leads to LOWER ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT and OBESITY. The violent content of many TV shows leads to AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR.
In recent years research has suggested that the amount of difficulty experienced by 5 and 6 year olds in learning to read and write is in proportion to the number of hours per day these youngsters watched TV when they were under four years of age.
According to Jane Healy, the author of 'Endangered Minds' 'Research clearly shows that better students tend to watch less TV, as viewing goes up, academic scores eventually go down.'
A.D.D. and A.D.H.D. (attention deficit disorders) are now more prevalent than ever before due to young children's TV watching. A.D.D. is an inability of school age children to concentrate because the brains of these children have become accustomed to the fast moving TV images that change every five seconds.
TV seems to be ADDICTIVE because of the way the visual signal is processed in the mind, it inhibits cognitive processes. Watching TV leads to a form of sense deprivation and doesn't stimulate conscious learning processes.
Frequent TV watching creates an unreal environment in which induced desires are fostered by advertisements that promote the interests of large corporations.
Marie Winn asserted that TV viewing by children was addictive and it was turning a generation of children into PASSIVE and INCOMMUNICATIVE 'zombies' who couldn't play, couldn't create and couldn't even think clearly.
I personally believe that young children have a basic need to form relationships with adults in their environment. They need loving and caring people who can LISTEN and GUIDE them at their developmental level. Their initial experiences must be rooted in the real world. I suggest the following guidelines:
- Absolutely no TV viewing under the age of 3 years.
- No TV viewing before going to bed at night and in the morning on school days.
- Parents should watch TV with their children so that they can discuss the program content, go over vocabulary and comprehension.
- Please do not let them watch shows which include inappropriate language and violence, such as Power Rangers, many cartoons (Tom & Jerry, Roadrunner), etc.
- Search for the best children's programs, such as Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, Sesame Street, etc.
- Limited TV watching to 2-3 hours per week.
Nearly all parents want their children to be healthy, happy and well educated. The essential foundation for these good habits and life skills begins in the child's earliest years (between 0-6 years). Many of the results depend on parents/adults choices and guidance - whether the child eats nutritious foods, has exercise or watches excessive TV.
(Lalita Trehan has been teaching in the Montessori environment for the past 30 years. She is Founder/Director of Sugar Creek Montessori School, Stafford, Texas, established in 1993, and a Trustee Board Member, Texas Center for Educational Research, Austin, Texas, since 2000.)