A Little Bit of TV Never Hurt Anyone
During the week, I was raised by a TV. After a long and relaxing night of sleep, I would slowly wake up and get out of bed. The cracking sound of the cold hardwood floor led me to the kitchen where I would prepare my breakfast: the magical bowl of Lucky Charms. While sitting at the counter with my brother, we discussed our plan for the day: Eat our magically delicious breakfast, make a fort, play Pokémon on our Gameboys, feed our pet dragon in the back yard, make a PB& J sandwich, and of course, grab our handy dandy notebook just in time for the 1PM episode of Blue’s Clues. We took this show very seriously, because we suddenly transformed into detectives as soon as the theme song would play. We sharpened our coloring crayons as if we were knights that were preparing for the battle of the century. We sat down in our Elmo bean bag chairs that felt like thrones to our own mystical kingdom. We would dedicate all of our concentration to figuring out the daily puzzle that Blue was giving us clues to, as if it was a top secret mission that needed to be put into action. Our duty as loyal Blue’s Clues viewers was to help Steve figure out the intricate riddle to allow him to communicate with his speechless dog. To complete our daily task successfully, it required us to remember the three clues, work as a team with Steve and to deliberate over the possible answers that could be linked to the evidence that we found while watching the 30 minute television program. We often succeeded at figuring out the meaning of the show, and we would always feel proud of our daily accomplishment.
Throughout my childhood, my brothers and I probably watched more TV then the average child. Blue’s Clues, Sesame Street, Barney and Mister Roger’s Neighborhood were few of the many shows that we watched on a weekly basis. My parents monitored the time spent and the content that we were exposed to while watching TV. I remember that they were not too fond of us watching Teletubbies as well as SpongeBob Squarepants. One might ask why my parents were not open minded when it came to creatures who had TVs on their bellies or sponges who lived in pineapples under the sea. Well in all honesty, the answer was beyond me…
The point that I am trying to get across is that I watched a lot of TV as a child, and I do not believe that it had any negative effects on my development. As an educated adult, I now understand why my parents did not allow us to watch certain shows. I believe that there are some children’s programs that do not allow it’s viewers to acquire any type of useful knowledge. However, there are actually many educational television programs that allow the viewers to gain lexical, social, and verbal skills. Parents play a crucial role when it comes to monitoring their children’s exposure to “good” and “bad” television shows. They cannot blame the children’s programs for causing negative effects on their child’s development if they are simply putting their kids in front of the TV without any supervision. The goal that I am trying to achieve by writing this article is to educate parents about what shows they should or should not allow their children to watch as well as giving them some advice on how they can use TV as an educational parenting tool.
Children’s TV Shows: Beneficial or Detrimental to their Development?
While going down my Facebook newsfeed the other day, I fell on an article called: SpongeBob Makes You Stupid. Obviously opinionated about the title, I decided to click on it anyways. I read it a few times while realizing that the author used interesting and valid arguments to defend her point of view. “Connecting fast-paced television viewing to deficits in executive function … has profound impacts for children’s cognitive and social development that need to be considered and reacted to” (Brown 2011). As a child, I was a hard core SpongeBob-o-holic (Alright, let’s be honest, I still am), so I tried to find other articles that were linked to the same topic just to challenge the meaning of my whole childhood. I mean, I feel like I turned out okay, so why is everyone being such a SpongeBob hater? I found an interesting article written by Zillman and his colleagues. I gained a lot of knowledge concerning the use of humorous distortions on children’s learning which was present in shows like SpongeBob Squarepants. “Educational programs can create considerable confusion in students in the initial grades and leave them with faulty impressions of novel realities [with the use of humour] (Zillman et al. 810). Shows like Spongebob Squarepants do not allow the viewers to think independently. As mentioned by Zillman in his article, the use of irony and crude humour causes a negative effect on the children’s comprehension skills because they are too young to know the difference between reality and fantasy. Teletubbies is also another example of a children program that is based on distortions because they use distorted language that does not allow the children to acquire any type of lexical knowledge. Due to the lack of cognitive stimulation, these shows do not teach children any manners, communication, vocabulary or memory skills and the children become more confused than anything…
Linking these statements back to the article that I mentioned earlier, these shows do not necessarily make you stupid. If a preschooler watches SpongeBob Squarepants, he will think that everything he sees on the TV show is accurate and intelligent information, so of course it is likely that he would be confused if someone did not explain to him that not everything that is said on the show is actually true. Young children are like parrots, they repeat and imitate everything that they see and hear. So, if your 3 year old daughter is acting exactly like Patrick the Star, I would be concerned too. A show that does not require a large amount of mental concentration does not stimulate the brain, which leads to a decrease in intelligence. It is essential for young children to be as cognitively stimulated as possible to develop within the norm. Shows such as SpongeBob Squarepants and Teletubbies do not allow a child to acquire any new skills, which means that it could technically make children less intelligent. Of course, there is a lot more to it than occasionally exposing your child to the TV shows, but for young children, the harmless little sponge could actually be a danger to your child’s intelligence.
One may ask, but what shows do require high levels of concentration? That is pretty simple actually: Shows that encourage interaction, participation and other cognitive abilities. As crazy as it may seem, there are actually many shows that can be beneficial to a child’s development because they provide them with a stimulating environment. As mentioned in Crawley and her colleagues’ article, children TV shows such as Blue’s Clues allow the viewers to interact with the main characters of the show which can help develop communication skills with the use of playful and education interaction. “The audience is frequently asked to “help” solve various problems presented during the program. After delays designed to allow the audience time to overtly or covertly provide answers, feedback on solution strategies as well as correct answers are provided by the program” (Crawley et al. 631). Dora the Explorer is also another example of a TV show that encourages its viewers to interact with her and her little monkey Boots. She engages the children by asking them questions which allows them to answer and help their virtual friend find the destination she is looking for. The two previous shows are educational because their main purpose is to teach their viewers different skills. These types of shows can be beneficial to a child’s development because their content is realistic, and not based on humour and other distorted themes like the previous programs mentioned above.
So the real question is, what TV shows should children watch?
After interviewing a mother of three who is also a former vice principal in an elementary school, I found that we shared a similar point of view concerning the impact of television on a child’s development. She allowed her children to watch certain TV shows and she also restricted some as well, which was similar to the way that I was raised. Both my parents and Martine restricted their children from watching Teletubbies because they believed that it did not allow them to gain any form of education. During the process of the interview, Martine mentioned that “Teletubbies was one of those shows that seemed to make [her children] become total zombies for 30 minutes” (Bushey Interview). Personnally, I agree with what she said because the characters do not even use any form of language to communicate between each other. Let’s be realistic for a second, their names are Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po… yeah enough said!
Sesame Street, Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, Zoom, Blue’s Clues, Barney, Dragon Tales and Dora the Explorer are few of the many educational TV shows that can be beneficial to a child’s development if they receive the proper amount of supervision while being exposed to this type of media (Dunn 2011). Watching TV can be a fun activity for parents to get involved in with their children because they can encourage them to participate, and they can also ask them questions to see if their child is following the main idea of that specific episode. Also, a parent can see for themselves what the show consists of and use their own logical reasoning to decide whether or not their child should be exposed to it. I am not trying to brainwash you by telling you what shows your kids should watch, but as a former child who was constantly in front of the TV, I am convinced that TV can have many benefits for your child such as gaining verbal, arithmetic, social and lexical skills…
The wind was blowing like a tornado was about to rip all of the trees from their roots and throw them up into the air. The sound of the rain was a constant murmur that disturbed the comforting sound of the old country tunes that constantly played in the living room. The thunder matched the pace of my heart beat while I was trying to fall asleep in my ocean themed bedroom. My room was usually a peaceful place for me, but I felt like I was trapped in a sailboat during the biggest hurricane of the season. The bright flash that would light up my room like the inside of a jack-o’-lantern on a foggy Halloween night was the presence of lighting during that mid-July storm. All I wanted to do was be in a place like the picture that was hanging on my turquoise wall. A beautiful beach that was surrounded by palm trees and birds that looked like the one on the front of the Froot Loops box. I tried to picture myself in the paradise that was hanging on my wall to get away from the horrifying event that Mother Nature created behind the walls of my home. Laying there is my Minnie Mouse onesie, I remembered one important lesson from Blue’s Clues: That anything is possible if you just believe. So I closed my eyes as tight as I would tie my shoes before running a marathon, and I whispered to myself Blue Skidoo, We Can Too!
Brown, Eryn. “SpongeBob Impairs Little Kids’ Thinking Study Finds”. Los Angeles Times 12 Sept. 2011. Web. 20 Apr. 2015
Crawley, Alisha M., et al. “Effects Of Repeated Exposures To A Single Episode Of The Television Program Blue’s Clues On The Viewing Behaviors And Comprehension Of Preschool Children.” Journal Of Educational Psychology 91.4 (1999): 630-637. PsycARTICLES. Web. 9 Mar. 2015.
Dunn, Jeff. “30 TV Shows That Are Actually Educational.” Edudemic Connecting Education & Technology 20 Apr .2011. Web. 9 Mar. 2015.
Rice, Jonah L. “Spongebob Squarepants: Pop Culture Tsunami Or More?.” Journal Of Popular Culture 42.6 (2009): 1092-1114. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 Mar. 2015.
Zillmann, Dolf, et al. “Effects Of Humorous Distortions On Children’s Learning From Educational Television.” Journal Of Educational Psychology 76.5 (1984): 802-812. PsycARTICLES. Web. 9 Mar. 2015.