Drug of the Nation

March 5, 2009

The other day, I had a door to door salesperson come to my house. I usually have trouble extracting myself from this kind of situation, but this day it was easy. He wanted to sell me Pay TV, asked if I had a satellite dish, and I told him we were a TV free household.

It’s the easiest time I ever had getting rid of a cold seller.

To be honest, we aren’t a TV free household. We are, however, very TV limited. We have an old set in an unobtrusive corner of the spare room, as Zai likes to chill out with a bit of TV at the end of a long day after Bodhi and I are asleep. I use it too, for DVDs or shows on SBS or ABC like Foreign Correspondent or Insight. I choose not to watch commercial channels. My use is occasional though: I watched the DVD “Birth as We Know It” a few nights ago, and before that, it was about six weeks ago.

Zai and I have made the decision not to expose Bodhi to TV. Admittedly, he would have seen a little bit of it (maybe averaging half an hour a month) in the first few months of his life, and he does see it when he visits other people’s houses and it is on in the background, but it is our intention to protect him from it as much as possible.

Below is a brief rundown of the reasons that led us to make this decision.

TV Disengages us from nature, reality and relationships

Whilst we watch TV, we engage with a machine. We learn little about the world around us, the rhythm of life, of love and nurturing. At best, we may witness things like these concepts, but are simply passively observing rather than experiencing them for ourselves.

TV is harmful to neurological development

TV has a hypnotic effect. As soon as the television is turned on, a child within close range will experience a change in brain function, from beta waves that indicate conscious alertness, to alpha waves, which are daydreaming, unconscious state (Large, 1990).

The effect may be addictive, and it is linked to underdevelopment synaptically, and in language, high order organisation, control and motivation (Healy, 1990).

Furthermore, whilst in this quasi-hypnotic state, our left-hemisphere brain which is responsible for analytical and logical thinking, shuts down, so we are unable to properly debate the issues presented to us in a responsible way, making us more vulnerable to advertising, opinion and all the rest (Sigman, cited in Kindred, Issue 22)

The flickering, radiant light of TV is like nothing we can experience in nature, so we are not evolutionarily designed to witness it. As such, our brain shuts down whilst watching TV (Large, 1990).

TV  aggressively pushes negative and/or violent images into a child’s memory

In the first few years of a child’s life, he or she is unable to discern what is real and what is not on TV. Furthermore, the child will take on and remember images they have seen on TV, sometimes not remembering it was on TV that they saw it. As a result the child may have nightmares, irrational fears or emotional maladjustment. The average child will witness over 20000 acts of violence in movies, on TV and in video/computer games by the time they are 18. These images stay with them.

Children (and adults) can be vicariously traumatised by images seen on TV. For example, do you remember the image of people jumping out of the Twin Towers after the September 11 attacks? Did you feel overwhelmed, or have a greif reaction following the recent Victorian Bushfires, even if you weren’t directly involved?

Following September 11, the American Psychiatric Association found there was a “significant rise in new prescriptions for antidepressants, antipsychotics and benzodiazepine tranquillisers”, and of which they stated “The attacks were unprecedented in scope, and Americans viewed them again and again on television.”

TV impedes our quality of life

I personally would rather spend my time  playing with Bodhi, catching up with friends, reading, cooking, writing, studying, making love and a number of other activities than watch TV.

TV would interrupt my bond and connection with Bodhi, and our lifestyles would be less sedentary.

TV impedes us from thinking for ourselves

A great deal of TV  is taken up with advertising, making our already consumerist lives even more focused on bigger, better and more expensive “stuff”. As already mentioned, we are already vulnerable to the messages we see and hear on TV, so are likely to be drawn to the advertised product. Many (if not most products) advertised will either use slave labour for manufacture, be transported thousands of kilometres across the planet, will be made with toxic chemicals, require vast logging in their production and/or require a number of other social and environmental disasters to bring them to arrive at our shops. Not really worth it for a flash pair of shoes or a plastic toy, is it?

I could go on, but I think my point is obvious. Weighing up the pro’s and con’s, I believe TV is far more harmful to my child than beneficial.
That’s not to say being TV free has been easy. Parenting is damn exhausting, emotionally demanding and draining sometimes. There are times that I would love to be able to pop Bodhi in front of the TV for half an hour whilst I rest (or more likely to cook without having to hold him on my hip, clean without him riding the vacuum cleaner, study without being climbed all over or write or work on Birth Healing without him jumping on my lap for a feed). It’s been very difficult at times to be constantly present to him, but I owe him that. Life is about living, not about watching someone else living (or acting out living) on TV. The tiredness fades, but love and nurturing endures always.

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