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Is television an appropriate technology?

Although TV was originally envisioned as a method to educate people to serve the public good - the vast majority of its use is for entertainment with quite dubious educational value and the device itself is known as the "boob tube" as it is a mindless occupation and time filler.[1]

Wikipedia has a page on the social impact of television.

Negative effects[edit | edit source]

Television has also been credited with changing the norms of social propriety, although the direction and value of this change are disputed. Milton Shulman, suggested that, even by the 1970s, television was shaping the ideas of propriety and appropriateness in the countries the medium blanketed. He asserted that, as a particularly “pervasive and ubiquitous” medium, television could create a comfortable familiarity with and acceptance of language and behavior once deemed socially unacceptable. Television, as well as influencing its viewers, evoked an imitative response from other competing media as they struggle to keep pace and retain viewer- or readership.[2]

There is a pretty well referenced page at the University of Michigan here that deals with children and TV. Also see [4] Slowly bringing over the useful parts.

Life Satisfaction[edit | edit source]

According to a recent research, conducted by John Robinson and Steven Martin from the University of Maryland, people who are not satisfied with their lives, spend 30% more time watching TV than satisfied people do. The research was conducted with 30,000 people during the period between 1975 and 2006. This new study came in a slight contradiction with a previous research, which concluded that watching TV was the happiest time of the day for some people. However, prof. Robinson commented that watching TV could bring a short-time happiness, which would be just a result of an overall dissatisfaction.[3]

Cognitive Effects[edit | edit source]

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics says "Pediatricians should urge parents to avoid television viewing for children under the age of 2 years. Although certain television programs may be promoted to this age group, research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with parents and other significant care givers (eg, child care providers) for healthy brain growth and the development of appropriate social, emotional, and cognitive skills. Therefore, exposing such young children to television programs should be discouraged."[4]
  • The more you watch television as a teenager the worse your academic performance.[5]
  • The largest watchers of TV do the poorest in school[6]
  • More than 2 hours of TV is bad for you [5]
  • One study found that TV viewing before age three slightly hurt several measures of later cognitive development[7]

Psychological effects[edit | edit source]

Some studies suggest that, when a person plays video games or watches TV, the basal ganglia portion of the brain becomes very active and dopamine is released. Some scientists believe that release of high amounts of dopamine reduces the amount of the neurotransmitter available for other purposes,[8] although this remains a controversial conclusion.

Physical effects[edit | edit source]

Studies in both children and adults have found an association between the number of hours of television watched and obesity.[9] A study found that watching television decreases the metabolic rate in children to below that found in children at rest.[10]

  • One study looked at adults at age 26, and how much TV they had watched as children. Researchers found that "17% of overweight, 15% of raised serum cholesterol, 17% of smoking, and 15% of poor fitness can be attributed to watching television for more than 2 hours a day during childhood and adolescence." This was after controlling for confounding variables[11]

Media Violence Research[edit | edit source]

Legislators, scientists and parents are debating the effects of television violence on viewers, particularly youth. Fifty years of research on the impact of television on children's emotional and social development have not ended this debate.[12][13]

Bushman & Anderson[12] among others have claimed that the evidence clearly supports a causal relationship between media violence and societal violence. However other authors[14][13] note significant methodological problems with the literature and mismatch between increasing media violence and decreasing crime rates in the United States.

A 2002 article in Scientific American suggested that compulsive television watching, television addiction, was no different from any other addiction, a finding backed up by reports of withdrawal symptoms among families forced by circumstance to cease watching.[15] However this view has not yet received widespread acceptance among all scholars, and "television addiction" is not a diagnoseable condition according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual -IV -TR.

A longitudinal study in New Zealand involving 1000 people (from childhood to 26 years of age) demonstrated that "television viewing in childhood and adolescence is associated with poor educational achievement by 12 years of age".[16] A study published in the Journal of Sexuality Research and Social Policy concluded that parental television involvement was associated with greater body satisfaction among adolescent girls, less sexual experience amongst both male and female adolescents, and that parental television involvement may influence self-esteem and body image, in part by increasing parent-child closeness.[17] Numerous studies have been done on the relationship between TV viewing and school grades.[18] Many studies have found little or no effect of television viewing on viewers[19] (see Freedman, 2002) Recent research (Schmidt et al., 2009) has indicated that, once other factors are controlled for, television viewing appears to have little to no impact on cognitive performance, contrary to previous thought.[20]

Propaganda[edit | edit source]

Television is used to promote commercial, social and political agendas. Use of public service announcements (including those paid for by governing bodies or politicians), news and current affairs, television advertisement, advertorials and talk shows are used to influence public opinion. The Cultivation Hypothesis suggests that some viewers may begin to repeat questionable or even blatantly fictitious information gleaned from the media as if it were factual. Considerable debate remains, however, whether the Cultivation Hypothesis is well supported by scientific literature, however, the effectiveness of television for propaganda (including commercial advertising) is unsurpassed. The US military and State Department often turn to media to broadcast into hostile territory or nation.[21]

Educational advantages[edit | edit source]

Despite this research, many media scholars today dismiss such studies as flawed. See David Gauntlett's article "Ten Things Wrong With the Media 'Effects' Model." Dimitri Christakis cites studies in which those who watched "Sesame Street" and other educational programs as preschoolers had higher grades, were reading more books, placed more value on achievement and were more creative. Similar, while those exposed to negative role models suffered, those exposed to positive models behaved better.[22]

Sustainability and appropriate technology[edit | edit source]

While broadcast television as a mass-market medium for entertainment and advertising seems for the most part a lost cause, television (and more generally video) remains an extremely useful medium for imparting skills and advancing pro-social and pro-environmental behaviors. Documentary and instructional films and programs cover a wide variety of sustainability and appropriate technology issues. These range from (fairly) lavish studio films and network television programs and down to home-made videos by individuals shared on social media Web sites. Such content is worthwhile both for the motivated person who wants to learn more, as well as for equipping the already persuaded person with tools to become more persuasive to others. For example, showing another person a documentary about climate change may make the issue real to that person in a way that merely conversing with that person often cannot. Well-crafted video content is simply more believable than most individuals can hope to be in face to face conversation about complex unfamiliar topics.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. McFedries, Paul. 2001. The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Smart Vocabulary p. 88
  2. Shulman, Milton (1973) The Ravenous Eye, Cassell and Company, p. 277.
  3. Unhappy People Watch TV Often
  4. American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Public Education. Media education. Pediatrics. 1999 Aug;104(2 Pt 1):341-3. Available at:;104/2/341.
  5. Television and the American Child [1]
  6. Televisión in the lives of our children By Wilbur Schramm see page 3 [2]
  7. Zimmerman FJ, Christakis DA. Children's television viewing and cognitive outcomes: a longitudinal analysis of national data. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005 Jul;159(7):619-25.
  8. ADHD - ADD Videos Games and TV
  9. Gortmaker SL, Must A, Sobol AM, Peterson K, Colditz GA, Dietz WH. Television viewing as a cause of increasing obesity among children in the United States, 1986-1990. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 150(4), pages=356–62 (1996)
  10. Klesges, Robert C., Mary L. Shelton, MS; Lisa M. Klesges, MS. Effects of Television on Metabolic Rate: Potential Implications for Childhood Obesity, Pediatrics 91, pp. 281–286 (1993) [3].
  11. Hancox RJ, Milne BJ, Poulton R. Association between child and adolescent television viewing and adult health: a longitudinal birth cohort study. Lancet 2004; 364:257-262.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Bushman, B; Anderson, C (2001), "Media violence and the American public", American Psychologist 56: 477-489
  13. 13.0 13.1 Savage, J (2008), "The role of exposure to media violence in the etiology of violent behavior: A criminologist weighs in.", American Behavioral Scientist 51: 1123-1136.
  14. Olson, C (2004), "Media Violence Research and Youth Violence Data: Why Do They Conflict?", Academic Psychiatry 28: 144-150
  15. Kubey, Robert; Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (February 23, 2002), "Television Addiction Is No Mere Metaphor", Scientific American
  16. Hancox, MD, Robert J.; Barry J. Milne, MSc; Richie Poulton, PhD (2005). "Association of Television Viewing During Childhood With Poor Educational Achievement". Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 159 (7): 614–618. doi:10.1001/archpedi.159.7.614. Retrieved 2007-06-18.
  17. Schooler, Deborah; Janna L. Kim, and Lynn Sorsoli (December 2006). "Setting Rules or Sitting Down: Parental Mediation of Television Consumption and Adolescent Self-Esteem, Body Image, and Sexuality". Sexuality Research and Social Policy: Journal of NSRC (University of California Press) 3 (4): 49–62. doi:10.1525. Retrieved 2007-06-18.
  18. Hershberger, Angela. The ``Evils" of Television: The Amount of Television Viewing and School Performance Levels. Indiana University South Bend. Retrieved 2007-06-18.
  19. Freedman, J (2002). Media violence and its effect on aggression.: Assessing the scientific evidence. University of Toronto Press.
  21. "Psychological Operations Field Manual No.33-1" published in August 1979 by Department of the Army Headquarters in Washington DC; and "Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Media Subcourse PO-0816" by The Army Institute for Professional Development, published in 1983
  22. Dimitri Christakis (February 22, 2007). "Smarter kids through television: debunking myths old and new". Seattle Times Newspaper. Retrieved 2007-08-31.

External links[edit | edit source]

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Authors Fixer, Teratornis
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Language English (en)
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Created March 5, 2010 by Fixer
Modified March 1, 2024 by Kathy Nativi
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