Sunday, April 23, 2006

Has anybody proved that TV is dangerous?

I got:

I would say that Tv commercials do as much damage to that as drugs do. Let's get rid of them....:-)

in my comments box and it made me wonder. Are there any studies supporting that TV is as dangerous as people think it is? I've had this argument with LinguistFriend a few times recently as well and the issue is making me curious.

I get that it can be a contributing factor to obesity, but I guess I'm looking for something a little more direct.

To me, it seems evident that illegal drugs are easily traced to a whole range of societal ills, while television and television commercials are imperfect ways to spend one's time but to me pretty obviously not as damaging. Crystal Meth kills people, thighmaster ads do not.

I know TV violence gets a pretty bad rap, but the studies are inconclusive, as far as I've heard. My mom said once that she saw a sstudy where they let kids watch the Power Rangers and then go out on the playground. They immediately started kicking. Not kicking each other, kicking the air. On continued observation, there was a lot of air kicking, but this never actually translated into kicking each other. This is very consistent with how I remember behaving as a child.

My suspicion is that Joel is right that people are quite selective of thier vices. I don't know that I've met anyone who claims television screwed up their minds and continues to smoke up, but I'm pretty confident they exist.

But for the rest of us, if you had to choose between letting your kid watch Desperate Housewives and letting your kid smoke up, would it really be a hard choice?



Houyhnhnm said...

TV and aggressiveness in children is almost like smoking and cancer. So many studies have been done that only someone in denial or with a vested interest would argue that there is no link. Sure, plenty of kids are not visibly harmed, but then lots of smokers don't get cancer. I'm not an authority on this, but I remember about 14 years ago attending a presentation by an early childhood educator who had a lot of data from various studies. It strengthened my resolve to essentially ban TV for our child, who was a baby at the time, though we did have a few videos. I've never had a moment's regret. I'm too cynical to think that much has changed in the last 14 years.

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Chalicechick said...

Statements like this:

Annenberg School of Communication estimates that each night 350 characters appear on prime time TV and that 7 of them are murdered.

make me wonder about those studies.

Speaking as one who is arguably mildly obsessed with mysteries and detective work, my TIVO probably gets 2 or 3 of those murders every night. (CBS's Without a Trace, about the FBI missing persons unit, which often finds the victims alive but hiding, is right there with them.)

That said, I barely made it through the first Lord of the Rings movie because you actually saw the violence there.

Violence is not a black-and-white issue.

If these studies are so easily conflating Sherlock Holmes and a Orc getting an axe to the face, what else are they fudging?


Kim said...

I would say that Tv commercials do as much damage to that as drugs do. Let's get rid of them....:-)

You took that out of context. Notice the phrase "to that"? It refers to something. what it referred to was people's attitude toward pain. I think that commercials wherein you are told that relief will be rushing to you in 15 seconds, and that our rival's 30 seconds is too long, tend to foster an attitude of being entitled to no pain at all, a dangerous assumption. Further, it has been my own clinical(not scientific) observation that that attitude is far more common in ex-heroin-addicts than it is in the population in general. I work with pain, or at least fear of pain, and I have worked in offices where part of our patient population was the ex-heroin-addicts in treatment facilities that sent their patients to our office for their dental work.
Just saying.
You do seem to have become more libertarian since you've been married.
Beyond the pain attitude thing, there's lots of stuff out there about TV being bad for you. I don't know how authoritative it all is, but then it's not my field and most of what I read about it was several years ago. On the other hand, in my readings about how the brain works, I have, more than once, come across the statemant that our brains do not distinguish between real memories and imagined or otherwise injected memories. That means that our brains process all those movies and TV programs as if we had actually experienced them. What must that do to our expectations about how the world is, let alone what people should look like....?

Joel Monka said...

A major problem with many of those studies is that they do not differentiate with types of violence, or the reasons or the consequences of the violence. For example, the movie rating system has a different rating for "scifi violence', because even young children know it's not real, and therefore has less emotional impact. In fact, we owe the modern concept of "superheroes" to the Comics Code of Approval, which demanded that violence be of that type. Additionally, the code required the originator of the violence to be either evil or insane (the origin of supervillians), and that there must be consequences- jail, or remorse, and that nobody, not even the hero, can profit from killing. It was felt that these rules would would render the story lines both less traumatic and morally uplifting- and I think they were right.