October 5, 2012

The Silence Of The Televisions

When I was a little girl, my parents did not allow me to watch TV on a regular basis. On occasion, they did allow my brothers and me to view certain shows, but, even that, they regulated. Their choice was not because they did not like the TV, nor did they feel that television was completely negative. My parents simply wanted us up and outside playing or reading or writing or doing something. Television just was not emphasized.

As an adult, I still carry the tendency to be doing something rather than watching TV. I tend to fall asleep to shows, but I don’t really watch much. Even when I am watching TV, often I find that I’m not really engaged in the activity. Likely, I’m reading or searching the web or writing or doing something else. I don’t even really listen to the TV; I tune it out completely. Some might call it background noise, but I don’t even use it for background noise.

However, many people do. And redOrbit reported that even as background noise, TV may be bad for development in young children. The study from the journal Pediatrics found a link between background television—that which is on but not being actively watched—and lower sustained attention, lower quality interactions, and reduced performance on cognitive tasks. All of these may be consequences of the noise and glow from the television, which both distract focus and attention.

Long has television been criticized for its effects on different areas of life including obesity, attention, and other health issues. This study provides a more realistic discussion of the impact of television on developing children. Of course, television is not the enemy, per se. The enemy is really the lack of regulation. Parents may be relying on television too heavily. This study showed that even the presence of having the television on affected children’s abilities to pay attention and interact. This is worth considering.

Now, I’m not saying that television is evil. Everyone likes to zone out to TV sometimes. What I am saying is that we must think about how much TV we expose ourselves to and, more importantly, how much TV young children are exposed to. Naturally, television distracts. It’s bright and noise-filled and eye-catching. That’s what TV shows want—to gain their viewers’ attentions. We can’t blame TV for doing what it’s supposed to do. We can, however, blame ourselves.

If we don’t turn the TV off, then we are responsible for the effects TV has on us. The occasional TV show is not the problem. The problem comes from the habitual, daily television watching or, as in the case of the study, television listening. The proverbial saying “Silence is Golden” most definitely applies here. With silence, individuals can dedicate themselves to what they are doing. They can focus on their activities instead of only partially committing to them. We’ve all had that moment when we’re cooking while the TV is passively blaring away. Suddenly, the show catches our attention and five minutes later all that’s left is burnt spaghetti. Our intentions were to just have the TV on for background noise, but the TV did what it’s supposed, distracted our attentions.

People should consider just turning the television off. It’s okay to cook in silence. It’s okay to play with our family in silence. It’s okay to just read or write or clean without any television on. It’ll be a hard habit for many to break, but it’ll be a habit that finds benefits in all from the developing to the developed. After all, all things in moderation…especially TV.

Image Credit: AISPIX by Image Source / Shutterstock

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Email


Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

Send Rayshell an email