Is Television Quality, Not Quantity, Really the Problem?
On Monday, the New York Times covered a study published in the journal Pediatrics that found a child’s consumption of ‘pro-social’ media, which encourages empathy, is inversely proportional to aggressive behavior towards others. The authors of the study thus concluded that exposing children to less adult TV and modifying other potentially harmful media habits may be able to improve a child’s social skills and motivate a more appropriate response when confronted with conflict. According the study’s lead author, “the take-home message for parents is it’s not just about turning off the TV; it’s about changing the channel.”
While I wholeheartedly agree with these conclusion and generally applaud research that demonstrates the subversive influence of pop culture and main stream television, I take issue with how the aforementioned study fails to consider the impact a reduction in overall screen time might have upon the behavior of children in the context of the many ways to socialize and entertain a child (team sports, outdoor activities, etc.). ‘Unstructured play’ that takes place outside (away from any form of screen) is known to dramatically improve the mental health and wellbeing of kids.
Besides, with more than 33% of kids being overweight or obese and more 20% of kids failing to meet the recommended level of physical activity, do we really want our kids to spend more time in front of the TV regardless of how socially conducive the programming?
Short-sighting or incomplete reporting like this may convince us that we are no longer responsible for the well being of our loved ones and will provide us another excuse to continue subjecting them to stimulation that may be detrimental to physical and mental health.
Honestly, if isolation and inactivity are ever recognized as reasonable solutions to deviant behavior we are all in serious trouble.