There is no doubt; television is no longer part of our lives, but has become life itself.. If you ask someone passing by: “tell me about your day”, you will hear a lot the word “television”.
This would give us a clue about the relationship between us adults and television. Well, what do children understand about television?
Television is one of the most easy and entertaining methods of reaching knowledge. Also, it has a stimulating effect, especially upon children. All that is happening in this two dimensional screen, the movements, colors, figures and sounds, give the impression of a magical world to the children. You can hear some mothers say: “if you take my child together with the television he/she would never even notice”. The reason for this is the “magical” effect the visual and audial stimulations create upon children. But, there are some very important issues, which should be kept in mind, regarding television. The most important one is the timing of introducing television to a child. No matter the kind of program in question, a child should not meet the television until the age of 3. Another issue is the time spent in front of the television. If the child is always watching television, and prefers watching it, instead of any other activity, such as playing, reading, studying and spending time with family members, and even refuses to go to sleep, a very serious problem is at stake. In this case, apart from the television, it can be speculated that there is a problem between the parents and the child: the parents may perceive this television keenness as a way of “resting”, and thus may encourage this situation. In this case it can be assumed that there is a problem in the relationship between the parents and the child. Also, when the child insists on watching the television, if the parents say “okay”, this will show up as a serious boundary problem in other areas of the child’s life. Another possibility is that the whole family is passing most of their time watching television and the child has just adjusted to the pattern. As can be understood from the examples above, the important thing is to find out why the child passes most of his/her time watching television and solutions should be aimed at these reasons. But the common denominator is that the mother and father should be able to close the television whenever necessary and canalize the child (and themselves) to other activities.
We have said that the television is a source of visual and audial stimulation. But, excessive periods of watching cause numbness, dizziness, imperceptions and concentration difficulties due to excessive stimulation.
Another topic is the context of the program the child is watching. Specially scenes with too much violence, blood, torture, etc., or else, programs and films comprising too much sexuality can be confusing and the child can be perturbed. Here the mother and father should be vigilant about the programs the child watches, and should thoroughly prevent them from watching these kinds of programs and films. Children are under the effect of concrete thinking until the age of 12. For example, for them, death is going somewhere and not coming back. God is an old man sitting above in the sky. When self-centeredness, meaning that everything is evolving around them, is added to this fact, they can not distinguish truth from imagination. For example, a child may insist that the teacher wanted them to take a book to school, but the truth can be that he/she only dreamt of it. Therefore, the child may think that a hero he/she watched in the television, or else the things the characters do are real. The child can easily believe in the stories or dialogues. At one time there were children trying to imitate heroes by jumping from balconies, which is a concrete example of this kind of thinking. At this point, what should be done, specially with little children, is to watch television programs with them. While in some programs for children the message that is desired to be delivered is reduced to the very concrete and explained with many details, in others it just goes on in a very abstract level. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to watch the program with the child and afterwards have a little conversation, in order to explain things they could not understand, to satisfy any curiosity and help overcome any fear or anxiety they might have.
Replacing the television for any home activity or else including the television to any activity will lead to more exposure to the harmful effects. For example, watching television or trying to have a conversation in front of the television instead of going for a little walk will prevent any communication and interaction within the family. Therefore the mother and father should be selective regarding the programs and hours, and close the television when necessary and instead involve in activities such as having a meal together, or a conversation about the day. The quality time parents spend with their children should not involve watching television together. As should be in all subjects, the control of watching television should be always in the hands of the mother and father. There are many programs on T.V, the important thing is to control the ones that the child is watching. So what has to be done is to prevent the negative effects of watching television and not the television itself.
Television also has negative effects upon adults, its not only the children that are affected. Although adults may not be impressed as much from the content of the programs, there are some consequences, spouse relationships are affected negatively, people are usually deprived from healthy and intellectual activities such as sports, reading, and friendships are also affected. Furthermore, the habit of eating junk food all together in front of the television and the danger this creates regarding obesity, can, may be, make us realize the real world outside.
Clinical Psychologist, M.S