Perhaps you have heard about the effects of TV to our children. Maybe you listened and shrugged later. That’s what I did too. I shrugged when my sister told me to lessen TV time for my daughters. I brushed it off my consciousness too when I read somewhere that TV is mind control. I told myself, “Mind control by watching TV? I can still think. I don’t think it can control me.” This kind of thinking was addressed by the world-renowned Scientist Nicanor Perlas in a workshop I attended. He said, “You are most branded or controlled when you think that you’re not.”
A colleague who went with me to that workshop suggested that I go on media fasting for 14 days, and when I came back to watching TV, I understood what Mr. Perlas meant. Let me share with you this exercise: close your eyes and name a commodity like toothpaste, shampoo, or soap. No doubt, you will see the names of the brands that you have frequently seen on TV. That’s how you get branded; by making you believe that they are the only option.
And now, imagine the TV doing this to your child; making her believe that she will only be happy the moment she gets that toy on TV. Or letting her child think through visual portrayals that parents who love their children will take them to a fast food or make them drink expensive formula milk.
The problem, however, is not only about the content but the medium itself too. Time spent on the screen for a child means less movement and less learning. According to Audrey McAllen, during movements, your child’s brain develops rapidly with the connection of synapses. The wires of the brain that will help the child process information for learning. With TV, the auditory and visual senses are bombarded heavily resulting to over-stimulation and giving less time to process information. This leads to stress and hyperactivity.
The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation once reported that of children two years and younger, 43% watched an average of two hours of TV on a typical day. During these two hours, they are not playing or imagining or interacting with the adults who are caring for them. This also means reduced time for creativity and imaginative thinking. I have also observed that children who are exposed to media even months before they were born become prone to disorders that children would not have if otherwise have happened.
In my personal experience, I have observed how my children are left with Last Song Syndrome the moment they would watch TV and how they cannot imagine freely their play. Instead they would tend to rely solely on the show they have watched. Their thoughts are limited to information thought about by other people with another intention in mind – and more often, that intention is to sell.
Another alarming observation that I have noticed with TV is the early and premature exposure to sex and influences in sexual behavior. One time, I saw an entertainment news highlighting that slap showdown of actresses, portraying wife and mistress. As if it’s something to celebrate about. That was the end of the line for me. If the adults portray that to a child, what does it do his senses? What is the society telling the child? That it is fine to slap each other? What else?
One more observation is that my little girls, when exposed to TV on that day, cannot sleep at our agreed time, which is 7:30pm, because they are restless and disturbed. Perhaps their minds are still busy with the replay from the scenes on screen. These observations alarmed us and led to doing away with TV at home.
If we look closer to the importance of sleep, the necessity of it is cosmic in scale. In her book Sleep – An Unobserved Element in Learning, Audrey McAllen stressed that it is during sleep that our children process the information they get during the day; and it is also here that their learning gets integrated by the body. With TV causing disruption to sleep, its presence in the life of our children should really be questioned if not extinguished.
On the other hand, with no TV, I can observe how children play very well and relate to their playmates more calmly. And yes, they are able to sleep well even as early as 7 p.m. In the morning, they wake up happy and with less tantrums.
These days too, I no longer need to drag them out of the toys department when I bring them to malls. I am sharing this because I have really witnessed the change of behavior of my children when we started transitioning to a no-TV lifestyle.
Take note that it is not totally prohibited to have a TV or a gadget at home, because our times already have that. What I am saying is, if we are to give those things to our children, let us study first what it does to their senses. And is it appropriate for their age? The call is to keep questioning and not just take in everything that has been set in autopilot mode by institutions who intend to only profit from our good intentions as parents and teachers.