30 years ago, Jim Trelease wrote a book called The Read-aloud Handbook which presents certain views about TV-watching at a young age that continue to have currency. Most of his arguments also have their opponents (and some of these arguments really do seem to work on the assumption that the old way is the best way), but it is worth seeing how different people spell out their feelings about the role of television in young children’s lives… some of his points are also worth considering… (NB I haven’t cited these perfectly – the ellipses are missing where Trelease had explained certain points further)
“Today’s television programming is a serious impediment to children’s personal growth because of both what it offers and what it does not offer.” (99)
“1. Television is the direct opposite of reading. In breaking its programme into eight-minute commercial segments…, it requires and fosters a short attention span.” (99)
“Television is relentless, no time is allowed to ponder characters’ thoughts or to recall their words.” (100)
“2. For young children television is an antisocial experience, while reading is a social experience…
3. Television deprives the child of his most important learning tool: his questions.
4. Television interrupts the most important language lesson in a child’s life: family conversation.
5. Television provides a language tool that is the direct opposite of what children find in the classroom. The child who writes and speaks the language of some of the characters in popular TV programmes is verbally crippling himself for the classroom, where the books are written in standard English, not street language.” (100)
“6. Television presents material in a manner that is the direct opposite of the classroom’s. Televisions messages are based almost entirely on pictures [-p.101] and our emotions in response to those pictures. Conversely, the classroom relies heavily on reading, the spoken word, and a critical response to those words, not just raw emotion. School also requires large amounts of time to be spent on a task. These minutes spent doing things like multiplication tables and spelling can often be boring and repetitious when compared with watching The Dukes of Hazard, but they are critical for learning.
7. Television is unable to portray the most intelligent act known to man: thinking.
8. Television encourages deceptive thinking …it is implicit in everyone of television’s commercials that there is no problem which cannot be solved by simple artificial means.” (100-101)
“9. Television, by vying for children’s time and attention with a constant diet of unchallenging simplistic entertainment, stimulates antisocial and anti-reading feeling among children.” (101)
“11. Television stifles the imagination [Trelease was working on the theory that the image was provided for you, requiring no imaginative efforts]
12. Television overpowers and desensitizes a child’s sense of sympathy for suffering, while books heighten the reader’s sense of sympathy.
13. Television is a passive activity and discourages creative play.” (102)
“14. Television is psychologically addictive. …
15. Television has been described by former U.S. first lady Betty Ford as ‘the greatest babysitter of all time, but it also is reported to be America’s second largest obstacle to family harmony.
16. Television’s conception of childhood, rather than being progressive, is regressive – a throwback, in fact, to the Middle Ages.” (103)
“The Shrinking of Treehorn and Treehorn’s Treasure, Florence Parry Heide wittily portray adults’ penchants for holding one-way conversations with children.” (113) [I confess this last reference meant nothing to say – it is, after all, a thirty-year old quote – but I liked his note about adults tending to dominate conversations!]
Ref: Jim Trelease (c1984) The Read-aloud Handbook. PenguinBooks: Hammondsworth, Middlesex.
I believe you can read more of this book freely on the net… http://www.trelease-on-reading.com/rah-ch1.html