My father once said to me, “when you’re watching TV, you’re watching other people make money”. Fundamentally he’s right, and both my parents were right in making me turn off the idiot box and then kicking me out of the house to go and play outside or, if it was rainy, I’d have to find something creative to do like draw army pictures of death and explosions, or play an instrument. Initially there was a battle, as the injustice of it all provoked me into a frenzy of rage. However, over time I learnt to entertain myself in other ways and enjoy the outdoors along with my juvenile wee crew of renegades, terrorizing the neighbourhood on our after school excursions.
That’s why I enjoyed reading Dr Aric Sigman’s book Remotely Controlled, which discusses how “television is damaging our lives”. This book is a compelling read, and demonstrates via a range of scientific/psychological studies how prolonged TV viewing stunts the brains development in teenagers and pre-teens in particular, and seriously hinders their ability to reason and perform well academically. TV quite literally dulls kids down as it provides rewarding chemical and hormonal experiences without the brain actually having to do any creative thinking or reasoning, as opposed to reading a book for example, where the readers mind creates its own images and depictions of the settings and characters, exercising the mind and fostering creative thinking. Interestingly, there is a recommendation that kids under two should not have ANY screen time at all, while some in the field of child psychology and development are more extreme and recommend five as the age to introduce the idiot box.
Further to this, Aric Sigmund argues that TV is too stimulating, and addictive, with ongoing viewing causing impulsive behavior in people whose minds are used to the instant gratification it provides, which in turn develops an attention deficit in people. Then there are all the social problems TV arguably causes, or reinforces: consumerism, depression, material and social dissatisfaction, social anxiety, unreasonable expectations of life in general …you know, like when you started high school and thought it would be like Beverly Hills 90210 where Brandon or Dylan would come chat you up in their cool leather jackets with their quiffed hair dos, or that your social interactions would be like those depicted on Home and Away, where the good old Aussie, salt of the earth digger Alf Stewart would provide an ethical and moral compass for all those in the “the bay” and correct anyone acting out of line! It was a shock for me to learn life’s not like those romanticized and idealized dramas.
There are those who dispute the works of Dr Sigman and the methods he employs to convince us all of television’s detrimental impacts on society. But he’s entitled to his opinion. After all, Dr Sigman has the whole alphabet under his name, as he works in health and education lecturing at medical schools and to National Health Service doctors in the UK. He is a Chartered Biologist, Fellow of the Society of Biology, Chartered Psychologist, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, a Chartered Scientist and a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine.
So there you go, have a read and decide for yourself, and when you are done, like me you can curl up on the couch with a blankie and watch Shortland Street, or Coro or Home and Away and forget about how mad the world really is with a bit of good old hellevision … whoops I mean television.