On an average of six times a day, there's a stranger in your house, a
stranger who has free access to your children and unlimited influence
on their lives. The task of the stranger is simple. Its goal is to
limit our ability to distinguish fantasy from reality. After all,
that's what the stranger is all about.
The stranger often teaches our children things we would detest. It uses
language which is gross and offensive. It shows our children things
which are shocking and repulsive. This stranger has no concern for the
age, experience or vulnerability of its victims. The stranger comes
visiting at all hours without warning and is devious regarding its true
intent. Its messages are often deceptive and appealing to young,
This stranger is cunning and has learned through years of practice and
billions of dollars in research, how to enter the very soul of its
prisoners. It has become an expert at exploiting audiences and trains
them to go seek new participants. Recently the stranger has been
"transformed" into a plastic cartridge which allows it to enter your
home anytime and deliver its message of demand without time
The stranger has become so accepted in our homes that it has been given
a place of honor in most of our rooms. It has even been allowed to join
us during meals, as long as the meals do not disturb its message.
Ironically, whenever the stranger joins us, it usually becomes the
center of attention, rather than a stranger. At our dining tables we
allow it to talk about things which would not be allowed during most
Although this stranger can be crude, obscene and vulgar, we have
decided that it can explain some things better than parents. We have
given it permission to explain life, sex, family values, ethics and
love. We depend upon it to define our values and priorities. We've
turned over child care and family entertainment to its expertise. We've
determined that we cannot live without its stimulation, motivation and
sublimation. We have submitted ourselves, the lives of our children, to
We spend untold hours telling our children of the dangers of strangers.
We teach them not to talk to strangers, walk with strangers, ride with
strangers or take things from strangers. However, with this special
stranger, anything goes.
Everyday for an average of six hours, we give our children to the
"stranger of the tube." Everyday the stranger talks to our children
more than most parents do in a month. We allow the stranger to teach
them things and use language for which we would have a real stranger
arrested. We allow the stranger to cheat, lie, demonstrate how to
commit crimes and how to avoid, and beat, our judicial system.
Without hesitation, the stranger mocks parents, belittles people of
honor, makes fun of moral values, denies honorable beliefs, and scoffs
at family and cultural traditions.
The stranger is powerful. It has thousands of employees who further its
causes and develop its sophistication. It is so powerful that if it
stops performing, we will use any means to acquire a new one
immediately -- usually bigger, better, louder, and more detailed and
preferably with attachable appendages to assist the stranger in
accomplishing its purpose.
Recently some interested groups are advocating that the stranger should
become a regular part of the daily curriculum in our schools. It would
be allowed to visit our children without censorship or a preview of its
presentation or contents. It would also be allowed to advertise its
supporters and special interests.
Fortunately, the stranger is not entirely evil. Like any visitor, it
has characteristics of value and interest. However, its behavior and
influence on the lives of our children must be monitored. Parents must
determine how much influence they want to turn over to the stranger
when it is visiting.
There's a stranger in your house. It's keeping our children from doing
their homework. It's preventing parents and children from talking
together. The stranger is coming between members of the family. It has
become the center of our society. We might consider scheduling its
visits, and determining what we will allow the stranger to discuss and
demonstrates when it visits our family.
TV Linked to Kids' Attention Problems
Apr 5, 6:49 AM (ET)
By Lindsey Tanner
CHICAGO (AP) - Researchers have found that every hour preschoolers
watch television each day boosts their chances - by about 10 percent -
of developing attention deficit problems later in life.
The findings back up previous research showing that television can
shorten attention spans and support American Academy of Pediatrics
recommendations that youngsters under age 2 not watch television.
"The truth is there are lots of reasons for children not to watch
television. Other studies have shown it to be associated with obesity
and aggressiveness" too, said lead author Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a
researcher at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in
The study, appearing in the April issue of Pediatrics, focused on two
groups of children - aged 1 and 3 - and suggested that TV might
overstimulate and permanently "rewire" the developing brain.
The study involved 1,345 children who participated in
government-sponsored national health surveys. Their parents were
questioned about the children's TV viewing habits and rated their
behavior at age 7 on a scale similar to measures used in diagnosing
attention deficit disorders.
The researchers lacked data on whether the youngsters were diagnosed
with attention deficit disorders but the number of children whose
parents rated them as having attention problems - 10 percent - is
similar to the prevalence in the general population, Christakis said.
Problems included difficulty concentrating, acting restless and
impulsive, and being easily confused.
About 36 percent of the 1-year-olds watched no TV, while 37 percent
watched one to two hours daily and had a 10 percent to 20 percent
increased risk of attention problems. Fourteen percent watched three to
four hours daily and had a 30 percent to 40 percent increased risk
compared with children who watched no TV. The remainder watched at
least five hours daily.
Among 3-year-olds, only 7 percent watched no TV, 44 percent watched one
to two hours daily, 27 percent watched three to four hours daily,
almost 11 percent watched five to six hours daily, and about 10 percent
watched seven or more hours daily.
In a Pediatrics editorial, educational psychologist Jane Healy said the
study "is important and long overdue" but needs to be followed up to
confirm and better explain the mechanisms that may be involved.
The researchers didn't know what shows the children watched, but
Christakis said content likely isn't the culprit. Instead, he said,
unrealistically fast-paced visual images typical of most TV programming
may alter normal brain development.
"The newborn brain develops very rapidly during the first two to three
years of life. It's really being wired" during that time, Christakis
"We know from studies of newborn rats that if you expose them to
different levels of visual stimuli ... the architecture of the brain
looks very different" depending on the amount of stimulation, he said.
Overstimulation during this critical period "can create habits of the
mind that are ultimately deleterious," Christakis said. If this theory
holds true, the brain changes likely are permanent, but children with
attention problems can be taught to compensate, he said.
The researchers considered factors other than TV that might have made
some children prone to attention problems, including their home
environment and mothers' mental states.
The American Academy of Pediatrics said in 1999 that children under the
age of 2 should not watch television because of concerns it affects
early brain growth and the development of social, emotional and
Jennifer Kotler, assistant director for research at Sesame Workshop,
which produces educational children's television programs including
"Sesame Street," questioned whether the results in the April Pediatrics
would apply to educational programming.
"We do not ignore this research," but more is needed on variables that
could affect the impact of early exposure to television, including
whether content or watching TV with a parent makes a difference, Kotler
"There's a lot of research... that supports the positive benefits of
educational programming," she said.
Hidden Dangers of Television
Children's development needs
Children learn so much in their first three years compared to the rest
of their lives. They learn to walk, to speak and experience the
awakening of thinking as they grow from being babies to infants.
Through play, children develop their knowledge of things, their
Television watching itself affects child development regardless of the
programme content. Recent research show that television watching
adversely affects children's thinking, speaking, imagination, senses,
physique, feelings, and behaviour. It is important for parents to be
aware of these effects.
T.V. watching as an experience
Television watching puts children into a passive, trance-like state
where they become "TV zombies" a condition quite different from their
active, playful state when not watching. Some parents observed that:
"my five year old goes into a trance when he watches TV He just gets
locked into what is happening on the screen. He's totally, absolutely
absorbed when he watches and oblivious to anything else." After
television watching children can be irritable. "After watching they're
nervous, bored, disagreeable, slowly coming back to normal." What,
then, do children experience while watching television?
Marie Winn calls television the 'plug-in-drug' because many people find
they cannot stop watching. People joke about being "hooked on TV"
Someone said "I watch TV the way an alcoholic drinks."
Not unlike drugs and alcohol, TV watching allows the participant to
blot out the real world and enter into a pleasurable and passive mental
state, where worries and anxieties cannot intrude. The typical vacant
state of someone on drugs or alcohol is very similar to the state of
the TV watcher.
The eyes need to be completely passive in order to watch TV i.e. a
fixed focus, no voluntary eye movements and a fixed head position. It
is as if instead of the imagery arising from within as in day dreaming,
it is produced mechanically for the watcher by the television.ips with
other children, their physical control and their imagination. Playing
is a child's work, and channels energy constructively into the learning
processes. It is essentially active. Children learn through imitating
other children and the adults who tell stories, nursery rhymes, speak
with them, and who can provide everyday activities such as baking or
TV retards brain development
The brain is patterned by the senses, by movement, speech, thought and
imagination. As the brain develops, children shift from a non-verbal
"right hemisphere" dreaming consciousness to a verbal, logical "left
hemisphere" state. Television watching prolongs children's dependency
on the right hemisphere. The "brain" strain on children of forming 625
lines composed of over 800 dots appearing 25 times per second - into
meaningful images must be considerable. With the lack of eye movement,
this strain can produce sleeplessness, anxiety, nightmares, headaches,
perceptual disorders, poor concentration and blunted senses. T. V.
watching can produce sensory deprivation.
TV and speaking
Children learn to speak by talking with real people, not by listening
to mechanically reproduced sound. Real people speaking communicate the
meaning of words, whereas television only reproduces the sounds, a
subtle but vital difference, confusing for toddlers. Television by
emphasising the visual, reduces the need of children to learn how to
speak; no verbal response is required of the child; thus speech is
Members of a working-party on reading agreed that "Children knew
nursery rhymes much less well than previously, largely because of
television which was a "look and forget" rather than a "look and learn"
TV encourages lazy readers
Reading involves concentration, accurate perception, imagination, the
comprehension of a story line, and the freedom of the reader to vary
the pace. Television, by causing the "vacant state" undermines
concentration; by an overwhelming visual impact stultifies the
imagination; by blunting the senses, interferes with the mechanics of
reading; and by emphasising the nonverbal reduces children's enthusiasm
A reduced sense of identity
Before television, there was a children's culture rich in games, songs
and rhymes. Children could play longer, sustain interest more, play
dramatically and were more active according to experienced nursery
teachers. Television watching puts children into an untypically passive
state in which they are deprived of their true work which is their
Children develop their sense of identity, of saying "I" to themselves
in meeting real people. The people on TV are unreal, impersonal images
which do little or nothing to awaken a child's sense of self. Hence "TV
children" may tend to relate to themselves and others as things,
objects, tools or even machines. This attitude may later develop into
an inability to react constructively in social situations.
The content of violent programmes may affect children's behaviour, for
children learn by imitation. However, the nature of the TV experience
regardless of programme content may cause antisocial behaviour.
Relating to others more as objects than human beings, a result of TV
watching, can contribute to violence. Also, the television experience
gives an illusion of participating in an activity when in fact one is
totally passive, so that children who are heavy viewers are less able
to judge the feelings, expectations and problems of others in real life
The effects of radiation
Radiation and artificial light may affect children's health and
vitality. The scientist Ott found that beans' growth in front of a TV
set was distorted by toxic radiation into a vine like growth, with
roots growing upwards out of the soil. Ott questioned what the
excessive absorption of artificial light might do to children.
Almost no educational benefit
Which is better qualified to teach a young child, a machine or another
human being? Experienced teachers have noted that children who watch
quite a lot of television retain very little of its content after a
short while (The "look and forget" Medium). This could be due to the
fact that the children are not called-upon to be active; they are not
engaging their will-power and creating their own imaginative pictures.
The impression left by the TV images is superficial.
The American programme "Sesame Street" was specially designed to help
disadvantaged pre-school children catch up cognitively and verbally
with those from more fortunate backgrounds. A 1975 survey suggests that
"Sesame Street" widened the achievement gap, and that light viewers
exhibited more gains in learning than heavy viewers.
What can we do?
If you feel, after reading this, that you would like to change your
family's habits with regard to television, how should you go about it?
First, make sure that both parents are in agreement. Then realise that
it will be difficult to get rid of television without putting other
things in its place, especially if your family have been heavy viewers.
1 - Restrict firmly the number of programmes watched, or, if you are
resolute enough, get rid of the TV set altogether. Or put it away and
use it only for very special occasions.
2 - Offer alternative activities of a creative sort, e.g. crafts,
puppetry, dressing-up drawing and painting, modelling, pets, various
hobbies, sports, music, fork dancing, nature studies, gardening.
3 - Encourage reading of well-written books (classics). Read aloud to
4 - Aim at a positive and warm family life, interesting mealtimes,
bedtime stories, singing, nursery rhymes, etc.
5 - Try to find friends who think the same way and help each other,
e.g. organising children's parties together.