It is considered that one of the greatest inventions of the twentieth century—the television—completely changed the way of a person’s life. Television has brought into every home a lot of information and easy-to-reach entertainment. Is its influence on the personality, family, or children positive only or is there another side of the coin? Yes, there is. A negative one. The effect of television depends not only on the content of its programs, but there are more general aspects of influence of TV viewing on intellectual activity. To make sure of that we need to look scrupulously at every aspect of this phenomenon in general, not emphasizing on the quality and content of its production.
An abundance of information pouring into a person’s consciousness at a fast pace does not allow him to analyze and comprehend it properly. For example, let us make a comparison between reading and viewing. The pace of reading, clearly, depends entirely upon the reader. He may read as slowly or as rapidly as he can or wishes to read. If he does not understand something, he may stop and reread it, or go in search of elucidation before continuing. The reader can accelerate his pace when the material is easy or less than interesting, and slow down when it is difficult or enthralling. He can put down the book for a few moments and cope with his emotions without fear of losing anything.
Unlike reading, the pace of the television experience cannot be controlled by the viewer; he cannot slow down a delightful program or speed up a dreary one. The images move too quickly. He cannot use his own imagination to invest the people and events portrayed on the screen with the personal meanings that would help him understand and resolve relationships and conflicts in his own life; he is under the power of the show creators’ imagination. He becomes a passive consumer of the TV production; like drugs or alcohol, the television experience allows the participant to blot out the real world and enter into a pleasurable and passive mental state. Like an addict, he puts off other activities to spend hour after hour watching TV and finds television almost irresistible.
Television affects family life. In the early sixties almost each magazine articles about television was accompanied by a photograph or illustration showing a family cozily sitting together before the television set: Dad with his arm around Mom’s shoulder, children sitting around the parents. Who could have guessed that thirty or so years later Mom would be watching a drama in the kitchen, the kids would be looking at cartoons in their room, while Dad would be taking in the ball game in the living room? Nor did anyone imagine the number of hours children would eventually devote to television or the common use of television by parents as a child pacifier.
The adult has a vast backlog of real-life experience, the child has not. So, the influence of television on a child’s consciousness is considerably greater. "Suppose there wasn’t any TV—what do you think your child would do with the time now spent watching TV?" This question was asked to a large number of mothers of first graders in survey published in the Surgeon General’s Report on Television and Social Behavior. Ninety percent of mothers answered that their child would be playing in some form or another if he were not watching television. Play is one of the most important activities to develop a child’s abilities. Playing with others requires the child to suppress his own wishes and desires to a certain degree, self-control must be learned. Not only must each child discover the need to suppress certain of his own impulses, but he must also discover the difficulties that attend the varying levels of aggression normally existing among his playmates. The more aggressive child must learn to find less aggressive ways to achieve his ends, while the milder-natured child must learn to protect himself and to maintain his integrity in the face of a more forceful companion. This horrible time-eater, the television set, has robbed the child of his normal opportunities to play, to talk, to do.
Why don’t parents restrict their children’s TV consuming? Of course, they should not prohibit