You be the judge: Is television is good or bad for children?

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 17, 2006

Ed Shannon, Feature writer

Here’s a commentary based on the subject of children and television which helps to lead up to several points I want to make in this and the next column. Since the following literary creation was authored by someone else, I’m using quotation marks for this portion of the column.

&8220;A cry of alarm is sounded frequently by educators, ministers, associations, and other individuals and groups about the harmful effects television has upon the youngsters of our nation.

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&8220;To learn how television has affected family living and children, and to learn how to manage problems arising from TV, Better Homes & Gardens magazine surveyed a cross-section of its readers.

&8220;The editors report that American families feel that TV’s benefits to their children far outweigh its shortcomings.

&8220;Most of the younger children spent two to three hours a day watching TV during the first few months, while their older brothers and sisters viewed for as much as five hours daily. Most of the children compressed their viewing to one to three hours a day once the novelty of the set had worn off.

&8220;After the advent of TV, mealtimes and bedtimes became trouble periods for most of the families in the survey. A third of them coped with the situation by combining eating with viewing. Most of the others turned off TV during mealtimes or else ate their meals where television could not be watched.

&8220;Where television was interfering with scheduled bedtimes, most of the parents established the rule that the child leave TV when it was time for bed.

&8220;Getting children to do homework in competition with the lure of television was a problem for most of the families with children of &8216;homework age. Most of the families insist that the child leave the TV room and do his homework elsewhere, but many of the families turn off the TV when it is homework time.

&8220;The majority of the parents whose children object to household chores either turn off the set or make the child leave television until he had completed his household assignments. The others generally let the child do the chores when he does not wish to view TV.

&8220;A third of the reader families felt TV made it difficult to get youngsters to play outdoors. Nearly half of these allow the child to decide whether he wishes to play outside or watch TV. The rest either turn off TV when they think their children should be outside or merely tell the child to go outdoors and play.

&8220;Forty percent of all the parents in the survey do not approve of some of the programs their children would like to see. Crime, violent mystery, horror, Western and &8216;emotional’ programs top the objectionable list.

&8220;However, most of the parents said that they try to guide their children’s choice of programs, and that their children follow the suggestions.

&8220;The parents’ chief complaint against TV for their children is that it is &8216;too time-consuming.’ The next most-frequent mention among disadvantages is that television interferes with social gatherings, conversation, visiting, and getting away from the home for entertainment.

&8220;Most parents thought the top benefit of TV for school-age children was in promoting education and new ideas. Next most important benefit was the recreation and entertainment that TV provides for children.&8221;

Okay, folks, here’s the real kicker. Those comments may sound like they’re fairly recent, yet they were written over 50 years ago! The original commentary was published in Albert Lea’s Community Magazine in the January 1956 issue. No indication was provided for the source or author of this particular article.

In the next column we’ll feature the era when the viewers of all ages in the Albert Lea area had the choice of just three television stations. And in early 1956 the children didn’t have videos, DVDs, the Internet, computers, iPods and so many other distracting devices.

(Tribune feature writer Ed Shannon’s columns appear on Friday.)