Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mich. Kids Urged to Kick the TV Habit

I saw this news item on Bellsouth News this morning: The reporter tells of a principal who observed very agressive behavior on the school playground and in talking to offending students noticed over a period of time that many were frequent watchers of violent television shows and movies. The school's campaign began from there.

It challenged students to do without TV and all other screen entertainment for 10 days, then limit themselves to just seven hours a week. The district's other schools joined in over the next year.

Administrators and teachers say short-term results were striking: less aggressive behavior and, in some cases, better standardized test scores.

Officials in the Delta-Schoolcraft Intermediate School District in Michigan's rural Upper Peninsula are so enthusiastic about the program they sponsored a national conference last spring and plan another for April.

Designed by child health specialists at Stanford University, the program was intended for third- and fourth-graders, but Delta Schoolcraft tailored it for kindergarten through eighth grade.

This article reinforces a bias I have strongly held and an action I have advocated now for over 25 years, beginning when my own children were in middle and high school. My television restrictions at that time became a family joke and my tirades on the subject were sometimes parodied by my children and their friends. However I remain convinced that we have yet to discover the extent of the damage that has been (and is being) done to young minds that spend their time "watching" the world instead of "participating IN" the world.

Yes, television may inure people to violence; and that is a real danger to society as a whole. But television also causes a colossal waste of human potential when people become accustomed to being passively entertained constantly instead of seeking helpful and creative uses for their time and mental capacities. What has society as a whole failed to realize because of this waste of creativity and initiative?

Go to the link above and read the entire article. But in case you don't, here are a few more short quotes from the article.

More than 1,000 studies have established a connection between violent entertainment and youthful aggression, but other factors such as family breakdown and peer influence might share the blame, the American Academy of Pediatrics has said.

...we do know that exposure to violent content does cause more aggressive behavior overall and that reducing screen time does reduce aggression overall," research team leader Dr. Thomas Robinson told The Associated Press...

Observers charted aggressive playground incidents - shoving, hitting, obscene gestures, name calling - at eight elementary schools immediately before and after the program. The totals dropped at every school but one. Overall average decline: 52 percent.

The district also compared scores of fourth-graders who took standardized tests during the turnoff in January 2005 with scores of fourth-graders tested before the turnoff. Math and writing scores made double-digit leaps.

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