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When every day is a No TV day...

You only have to do a Google search on the keywords “TV watching effects” to have your screen fill up with links to studies claiming that watching TV is harmful to your physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual health. Sumana Ramanan writes.

mumbai Updated: Jan 23, 2011 00:41 IST
Sumana Ramanan

The data seems to be unambiguous. You only have to do a Google search on the keywords “TV watching effects” to have your screen fill up with links to studies claiming that watching TV is harmful to your physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual health. Many of these studies appear in peer-reviewed journals. I tried, unsuccessfully, to find one that said it was a worthwhile activity.

Watching TV is, not surprisingly, even more harmful to children than it is to adults. One study, by a sociologist at the University of British Columbia in Canada, concluded that “the introduction of television made kids more aggressive, harmed the acquisition of reading skills, decreased creativity scores, and cut participation in non-TV leisure activities.” (See http://world.std.com/ ~jlr/comment/tv_impact.htm.)

Another study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, whose results were reported by TIME magazine, found that of all sedentary behaviours, watching TV was the worst. “It was linked to significantly higher blood pressure in children…,” the article said. “What’s more, other sedentary behaviors, like using a computer, were not associated with similar blood-pressure hikes.” (See http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1914450,00.html.)

Particularly pernicious, but not often discussed, is the propaganda on TV targeted at children, such as advertisements for junk food that air on prime time on kids’ channels.

Given the welter of evidence for the harm that TV causes, to call it merely an “idiot box” seems to be benign. When the harmful effects of TV, at least on children, are so well-documented, I wonder why as a culture, as a country, we do not do something about it.

Those who know me may claim that I am biased: I don’t have a TV and have never had one for the past 17 years, barring a year that I spent abroad, where the apartment came with one.

My children, twins who are 10 years old, grew up without a television at home and have never asked us to buy one. They have learnt to occupy themselves in other ways.

We are certainly in a minority but we have company. Even before HT launched its No TV Day campaign, the newspaper wrote about other families in Mumbai who did not have televisions (see picture). In those cases too, the children appeared to have easily adapted to the absence of a television.

I suspect it is far harder for the parents to do without one, and the toughest decision is the initial one, of simply not buying one. Once you make that difficult decision, the rest seems to be easier. Even in a city starved of open spaces, there are plenty of things children can do to keep themselves occupied enjoyably and less harmfully, such as reading, drawing and painting, playing board games, skating, skipping...

So as an unabashed TV-sceptic, I hope that observing No TV Day this Saturday will spark a larger movement advocating TV-less homes.

In the meantime, to make sure that our readers have lots to do on that day, we have been offering them every day, on page 2, a guide to what our city has to offer. Get off the couch and enjoy yourselves.