Thursday, March 29, 2007

Television Addiction and Children

There is an argument that watching television has some benefits. Like, it can be entertaining (hah!) or educational (bah!), open new horizons to children (pah!), help them know about cultural diversity (tcah!), and so on.

The truth is that television watching is not merely bad - it is downright dangerous. Today, there is content (TV channels, DVD, and so on) targeted at babies 2-years old and younger even when medical science is screaming that children up to 2 years of age must be shielded from this scourge.

It is important to know that television has become a huge part of the lives of children.

  • Children spend around 4 hours per day watching television.
  • In 65% of homes the television is on during meals.
  • In 50% of homes the television is perpetually on.
  • Some parents are actually foolish enough to encourage television viewing.
All this television is having some very obvious reactions that are not at all obvious to those who watch it. Here are some examples of what television is doing to children.
  • It is replacing normal childhood activities like playing with friends, physical activity, being out in fresh air, using their imagination, reading, doing chores and homework.
  • The time spent watching TV is time lost that should be spent in interacting with the family.
  • TV viewing leads to behavior problems, sleep problems, poor grades, and obesity.
  • TV programming for children focuses on stereotypes, violent solutions, bad behavior - not at all what parents ought to be teaching or children ought to be learning.
  • Advertisements for children specifically encourage snack foods and beverages that lead to health problems. This does not include exposure to alcohol and tobacco.
Television Addiction and Child Brain Development
As mentioned earlier, today we have content that is specifically targeted at infants (2 years old or younger). There is no unanimous opinion on what effect this has on the brain development of the child. Some studies show a clear connection to problems like ADHD but then some experts disagree. Another study discovered that cognitive development suffers because of television viewing before the age of 3.

This is what the American Academy of Pediatrics has to say about infant television viewing.

"Children of all ages are constantly learning new things. The first 2 years of life are especially important in the growth and development of your child's brain. During this time, children need good, positive interaction with other children and adults. Too much television can negatively affect early brain development. This is especially true at younger ages, when learning to talk and play with others is so important.

Until more research is done about the effects of TV on very young children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend television for children age 2 or younger."

In addition to the above it is also noted that television first discourages and eventually replaces reading. Reading requires a lot more brainpower that acts as an exercise regime for healthy brain development. When children are exposed to television they get dumber than they ought to be.

Television Addiction, Children, and Violence
This is another great controversy with no clear agreement on whether television actually causes violence. Considering that children learn from everything they see and experience, here are some damning statistics.
  • By the age of 18 an individual will have seen 18,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence.
  • 66% of all television programming focuses on violence.
  • Programs that are designed for children have more violence than those designed for adults.
  • Violence on television is seldom punished; it is actually represented as being funny. The suffering that follows violence is never depicted.
  • Television glamorizes violence when showing it to children.
  • For children, even the act of good guys beating up bad guys is a clear lesson that violence is good. This is especially true below the age of 8 when children do not differentiate between fantasy and reality.
  • Television viewing effectively murders the human child's inhibition to violence and human suffering.
Television Addiction and Child Trauma
What children view on the television can easily lead to trauma (even extreme conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD).
  • Anxiety, nightmares, fear of being alone, not going to school are all examples of behavior problems because of television viewing.
  • Children between the ages of 2-7 are especially scared of grotesque shapes and monsters. It is no good explaining to the child that it is just television because the child's brain cannot grasp the difference.
  • Though it goes unnoticed, most children regret watching television when they experience "fright reactions".
  • Children become needlessly afraid that they might be the next victim of an act of violence or some natural disaster.
Television Addiction and School Performance
  • Television replaces activities like reading, homework, hobbies, sports, and causes sleep problems.
  • Television has a long term effect on academic achievement. According to one study the individual will be hampered up to the age of 26 after uncontrolled childhood television viewing.
  • Poor academic performance in school is directly linked to television viewing.
Television Addiction and Racial/Gender Attitudes
Television also affects a child's perspective and beliefs about race and gender.
  • Television stereotypes everything and children grow up believing in those stereotypes.
  • Television viewing encourages racism and intolerance.
  • In the western nations, television programs and movies seldom focus on the eastern side and even when it does it is either negatively or it is stereotyped. The same applies in reverse.
  • Television women are always thin. Fat women mostly have negative characters.
  • Fair people are always given prominence and darker skin tones are made to look inconsequential and undeserving of human empathy.
  • Commercials for kitchenware, cleaning products, and similar consumables always feature thin and beautiful female characters.
  • Even in G-rated content for children, which is allegedly safe for them, male characters outnumber females by 3:1. These men are never in healthy relationships and always solve problems with violence.
  • Dark skinned characters in G-rated content are always bad, comedians, or dumb sidekicks.
  • Music videos exaggerate the image of women as victims and darker skinned males as aggressors despite this being a complete lie.
Television Addiction and Child Health
The biggest health hazard in television is the commercials. Children that watch television automatically assume it to be a legitimate source of good information. Unfortunately, all advertisements tell them to eat foods that lead to obesity and cholesterol problems. Television also encourages children to engage in risky activities like performing stunts, doing drugs, and engaging in unprotected sex.
  • Weight and Obesity
    • Children between the ages of 3-4 who spend more than 2 hours watching television will be overweight.
    • This continues into adulthood with a high risk of obesity and associated diabetes.
    • Television is the biggest contributing factor that leads to weight problems. Diet, physical inactivity, and sedentary behavior are all negligible problems in comparison.
    • Television viewing cultivates the habit of snacking, which leads to weight problems.
    • 70% of all food products advertised on child television are bad for health.
    • Metabolism slows with age, causing middle-aged people to accumulate more fat as they get older. The metabolic rate of a child drops like a rock while watching television. Sitting idle staring into space will result in a better metabolism than watching television.
    • Children are specifically targeted by the food and beverage industry. All their products are high on calories, salt, sugar, fat, and extremely low in nutrients.
    • A recent study has showed that restricted television viewing among adolescents resulted in weight loss.

  • Childhood Television and Adult Health
  • A study of adults (age 26) who watched television as children resulted in the following data.
    • 17% were overweight.
    • 15% had high cholesterol.
    • 17% were smokers.
    • 15% were in poor health due to physical inactivity.

  • Physical Hazards
    • The biggest cause of childhood death is injury and television viewing encourages risky behavior.
    • Millions of children the world over suffer injuries every year trying to duplicate television stunts (these include stunts seen in movies).
    • A study of sports broadcasts revealed that 50% of all commercials include some unsafe activity or violence.

  • Insomnia
    • Children and adolescents suffer from maladjusted sleep patterns and other sleep disorders due to watching television.
    • Healthy (REM) sleep is crucial to staying in good health and it requires regular sleeping hours. Children who watch television suffer from irregular and unsatisfying sleep.
    • By early adulthood this problem can solidify into permanent and incurable insomnia.

  • Alcohol
    • Alcohol is nearly ubiquitous on television. Children are constantly exposed to alcohol use. Simply put, it is the most widely used beverage on television and it is always portrayed as "cool".
    • Alcohol consumers on television are mostly happy, sexy, and quite thoroughly successful despite the fact that they are drunk most of the time.
    • Most prime time programs targeted at teens will have subtle if not downright overt references to why alcohol consumption is right and proper.

  • Smoking
    • Though tobacco commercials are banned the programs continue showing healthy people enjoying smoking.
    • Tobacco advertisements are always covert and hence they can target anybody, even a 5 year old can recognize a popular cigarette brand.
    • Children who watch television begin smoking much earlier than others. Parental smoking, peer smoking, and gender bias are negligible to television induced smoking.

  • Sex and Safety
    • Parents, for some reason, avoid talking to their children about sexual intercourse, sexual relationships, sexually transmitted diseases (STD), birth control, and similar important issues. Children receive most of this information through television.
    • Though there is enough about sex on television to make the Kama sutra irrelevant there is hardly sufficient content on safe sex and birth control.
    • Sexual content on television has doubled in the last 10 years. 70% of all teenage programs have sexual content and 15% out of these show spontaneous sex - you meet someone and instead of saying "Hello" you have sex.
    • Television encourages teenagers to have sex at an unsafe age.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Beautiful People Syndrome

"In the age of television, image becomes more important than substance." - S. I. Hayakawa

"Oh, no, I'm getting a zit!"
"Well, he seems nice, but his nose hair needs to be cut."
"I'm losing my hair."
"She's too tall for me."
"Gosh his breath smells."
"Does this skirt make my butt seem big?"
"Oh man, clean your shoes off, you stepped in dog poop."
"Wait, before we leave I have to go to the bathroom."

These real-life adventures never occur on television. These are things TV characters don't have to worry about. Television is, after all, perfect. People are beautiful on television - they live amazing lives and look great doing it.

Television addicts eventually lose their ability to comprehend that TV characters are not real. The images on television may look real, and the people look real, but they are just images. TV characters live in one dimension. TV characters are fictional. Television shows are fictional.

Now, this is not an attempt to insult your intelligence. Of course television isn't real. Everyone knows that. But how much does the world of television affect our daily lives? How much does TV influence your opinion of people? How does TV impact fashion, speech, and social interaction? This is what is meant by The Beautiful People Syndrome: that TV influences the way we view others.

The Beautiful People Syndrome is what happens when you watch too much TV. You begin to believe, or expect, regular people to act, behave, and look like television stars. Does TV imitate life, or does life imitate TV, or do both happen? Television images portray people as beautiful, smart, wealthy, quick-witted, creative, instantly compelling, and exciting. Television wouldn't be worth watching, for those who watch, if it wasn't unbelievably interesting.

In the book Amusing Ourselves to Death, New York University Professor Neil Postman explains how television has changed modern imagery: "It is implausible to imagine that someone like the multi-chinned, three-hundred pound William Howard Taft (
27th President of the U.S.), could be put forward as a presidential candidate in today's world. The shape of a man's body is largely irrelevant to the shape of his ideas when he is addressing a public in writing or on the radio ... but it is quite relevant on television. The grossness of a three-hundred-pound image, even a talking one, would easily overwhelm any logical or spiritual subtleties conveyed by speech."

Postman goes on to explain that "on television, discourse is conducted largely through visual imagery, which is to say that television gives us a conversation in images, not words ... You cannot do political philosophy on television. Its form works against the content."

After watching hours and hours and hours of television imagery, those "Beautiful People" will become burned into your mind. The handsome, pretty, skinny and witty characters on the show "Friends" are more famous than writers, poets, politicians and more important than teachers, policemen, or firemen. The characters on "Friends" live the lives we all should live -- and they don't even have to work that hard.

The Beautiful People Syndrome is attacking the psyche of television addicts. For a man, if you are not 6'1'', handsome and wealthy you are not ideal. Any woman who isn't bone-thin with a large chest certainly is below the standard. Television is warping minds worldwide. Everyone wants to be one of the beautiful television people.

What is the result of The Beautiful People Syndrome? A lot of unhappy citizens. Post-traumatic-television depression can set in after you realize that your life isn't as wonderful as TV says it should be.

The ubiquity of television is transforming our lives. If you are not one of the "Beautiful People," you're an outcast.

"Television has become, so to speak, the background radiation of the social and intellectual universe, the all-but-imperceptible residue of the electronic big bang of a century past, so familiar and so thoroughly integrated with our culture that we no longer hear its faint hissing in the background or see the flickering gray light," contends Postman.

"The world as given to use through television seems natural, not bizarre," he says. "Our culture's adjustment to the epistemology of television is by now all but complete; we have so thoroughly accepted its definitions of truth, knowledge, and reality that irrelevance seems to use to be filled with import, and incoherence seems eminently sane."

I hope you know the truth. The trick is to make the truth your conscious and subconscious reality. The truth about the true nature of people: Beautiful People only exist on TV. Beautiful People only exist on TV. Beautiful People only exist on TV. Beautiful People only exist on TV. Make this your mantra. The reality is not as fun or glamorous as television. Rejecting the influence of TV imagery will set you on the path to enlightenment; and make real life so much more worthwhile.

Click here for original article. Published on this blog with permission from Ron Kaufman.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Living In A Culture Of Fear

News Programs

"Local TV news, at least in the U.S., is probably the biggest fear mongering vehicle there is 'cause if you turn on local news in pretty much any U.S. city, you're going to have the sense of chaos that there's crime everywhere and murder and mayhem going on at the very time crime rates are at historic lows.

"This generation of young people is, in general, less violent than many previous generations and, in general, better adjusted than previous generations. But you'd never know that by all the fear mongering about them. We've managed to convince ourselves that just about every young male is a potential mass murderer."
-- Barry Glassner, Sociologist/Author, The Culture Of Fear

If It Bleeds, It Leads.

All television addicts believe that without television they would be ignorant since they would be unaware of what is happening.

However, the purpose of news programs is not to inform. They are designed with the idea to capture the audience with shocking and provocative news stories and to make sure everyone keeps watching.

Most importantly, everyone keeps watching through the commercials. The only purpose of television news shows is to make money for the television network.

Everything else is irrelevant.

Through this mess it happens that sometimes valuable information does seep through. However, the amount of violence that appears on television during an average news broadcast is much more than the amount of violence that really occurs.

The result is fear!

The culture of fear

We live in a culture of fear. Fear of violence. Fear of disease. Fear of war. Fear of the weather. Fear of our neighbors. Fear of the unknown.

What we never realize is that these fears are not natural but are driven through television. This is because people believe what they see on television. Television affects fashion, lifestyle, attitude, and knowledge.

For television addicts (there are no viewers, only addicts) if it's on TV then it's got to be true!

Every culture on this planet suffers from the disease of fear.

"Television news programs survive on scares. On local newscasts, where producers live by the dictum 'if it bleeds, it leads,' drug, crime, and disaster stories make up most of the news portion of the broadcasts. Evening newscasts on the major networks are somewhat less bloody, but between 1990 and 1998, when the nation’s murder rate declined by 20 percent, the number of murder stories on network newscasts increased 600 percent," said Barry Glassner in the book The Culture Of Fear.

In America, and the rest of the world, people watch thousands of acts of violence on television over and over and over. Paul Klite, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Media Watch, said in a statement that "the seventy-five percent of Americans who watch TV news regularly are subjected to a substantial nightly dose of catastrophe. And, in the news, the blood is real. Journalists by now know that their broadcast images have enormous power and must be handled with sensitivity. Yet, the news industry has no ethical guidelines for airing violent images."

Klite's organization found that from 40 to 50 percent of all on-air news was comprised of reporting some type of violent act. "Murder, one of the least common crimes committed, is the number one topic on newscasts," said Klite.

Most gun owners and advocates probably don't want to admit that they keep guns out of fear. "People who watch a lot of TV are more likely than others to believe their neighborhoods are unsafe, to assume that crime rates are rising, and to overestimate their own odds of becoming a victim. They also buy more locks, alarms, and—you guessed it—guns, in hopes of protecting themselves," said Glassner.

Is there a causal link between TV violence and real-life violence? Maybe and maybe not. The answer to this question depends on who you ask.

Why is television news so violent?

"After the dinnertime newscasts the networks broadcast newsmagazines, whose guiding principle seems to be that no danger is too small to magnify into a national nightmare. Some of the risks reported by such programs would be merely laughable were they not hyped with so much fanfare. Competing for ratings with drama programs and movies during prime-time evening hours, newsmagazines feature story lines that would make a writer for 'Homicide' or 'ER' wince," said Glassner.

Television news is compelling. Neil Postman and Steve Powers, authors of the book How to Watch TV News, note that TV news programs are designed to keep the viewer watching and build an audience. TV news are highly rated shows and bring in big money in advertising. "More viewers, higher ratings, more advertising dollars, more profit, more similar programs to try to attract more viewers ... ad infinitum," they said in the book.

"Murders, rapes and fires are not the only way to assess the progress of a society. Why are there so few television stories about symphonies that have been composed, novels written, scientific problems solved, and a thousand other creative acts that occur during the course of a month?" question Postman and Powers. "Were television news to be filled with these events, we would not be frightened. We would, in fact, be inspired, optimistic, and cheerful."

"In the judgment of most editors, people watch television. And what they are interested in watching are exciting, intriguing, even exotic pictures... It is difficult to televise a theory." Most people would rather watch a hot pursuit in the show "Cops" than see a scientist explain his theory with complex mathematics. Also, TV news must be fast. Short sound bites and quick cuts because on TV, time is a limiting factor.

Postman and Powers explain that TV news has got to be brief, because while news can be condensed and cut, commercials cannot. This is what TV news is all about. This is why we live in a culture of fear.

"Daily examples of violence and moral degeneracy that are the staple of TV news shows ... are not mitigated by the presence of recognizable and attractive actors and actresses," said Postman and Powers. "They are put forward as the stuff of everyday life. These are real murders, real rapes, real plundering. And the fact that they are the stuff of real life makes them all the more powerful."

What can you do? How can you stop this culture of fear from entering your own home? Not watching TV news is a good step. Yahoo! News and Google News are two great sources of news, pictures and video on the Internet that is uncut by commercials and news program directors. Radio and newspapers also bring news in a more complete fashion. The Internet and newspapers also allow the reader to progress through the story at his or her own pace. You can read the story again to pick out details or find other stories which will tell you more. Have a conversation around the table during dinner. Keep the tube off.

Watch TV news with a critical eye. TV news shows are designed to keep the viewer watching through the commercials. The video on TV news is edited and narrated and oftentimes the whole story is not presented. A story without good sound bites or video is not shown or is brushed over quickly.

Forming an opinion for yourself about how to establish your own safety is the best way to have realistic expectations. Believe what you see and hear with your own eyes and ears. Don't believe what comes across on the TV screen. TV news exists to sell on-air advertising, not to enlighten the watcher.

Click here for original article. Published on this blog with permission from Ron Kaufman.