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TV Makes Odd Bedfellows

“Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton teamed up yesterday with two of the Senate's most conservative Republicans to warn Americans about the impact of televised sex and violence on young children.

“Clinton called it a "'silent epidemic.'"

“Citing research by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Clinton warned that some children are watching over six hours a day of electronic media – primarily TV and the Internet, but also DVDs, video games and movies.”

“She wants President Bush and Congress to direct $90 million over five years to study the impact of electronic media on kids' "'cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and behavioral development.'"


We hope the study isn't limited to sex and violence. As readers may recall from earlier posts, Marshall McLuhan emphasized that the “medium is the message.” Content doesn't matter. What matters is the way content is conveyed. That's where the emphasis of the study should be.

Here are a few earlier posts on TWE about the effects of TV:

"As a grandparent, [Marshall] McLuhan advised his son Eric to limit the time his young daughter spent watching TV: television, he wrote Eric, in language he permitted himself only in private, was a 'vile drug which permeates the nervous system, especially in the young.'" December 14, 2004

"Meat powder made Pavlov's dog drool; television does something similar to our brains. As an extensive treatment of television viewing habits in Scientific American noted in 2002, 'Psychologists and psychiatrists formally define substance dependence as a disorder characterized by criteria that include spending a great deal of time using the substance; using it more often than one intends; thinking about reducing use or making repeated unsuccessful efforts to reduce use; giving up important social, family, or occupational activities to use it; and reporting withdrawal symptoms when one stops using it.' Researchers have found that 'all these criteria can apply to people who watch a lot of television.'

"Even if you don't believe that there is such a thing as 'television addiction,' Robert Kubey and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi have compiled some startling statistics about our viewing habits: they found that 'on average, individuals in the industrialized world devote three hours a day' to watching television, which is half of their total leisure time. We spend more time watching television than doing anything else but sleeping and working. Using an 'Experience Sampling Method' to track people's feelings about television, Kubey and Csikszentmihalyi found that people watching TV reported 'feeling relaxed and passive,' a state that electroencephalograph studies of TV watchers have supported; viewers experience 'less mental stimulation, as measured by alpha brain-wave production, during viewing than during reading.' This pleasurable sense of relaxation ends as soon as the TV is turned off; what doesn't end is 'passivity and lowered alertness.'" (See January 25, 2005)