19 July 2010
By Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey
Lonely, City Children Spend Long Hours In Front Of Idiot Box At Home
Rohit’s is not a one–off case. More than 50% schoolchildren in the city watch TV for four and a half hours daily on an average. And, this is giving rise to a band of unruly, undisciplined and aggressive children who are unimaginative and have little or no interest in studies or in any kind of books, for that matter.
The WHO norm for television viewing for kids under 15 years of age is a maximum of eight hours a week, beyond which it starts affecting their IQ and even EQ levels. In a desperate bid to save kids, schools have started counselling both children and parents to allot specific TV–viewing sessions and work out routines so that a balance can be maintained.
In an open–house session, where parents of lower nursery kids of La Martiniere for Boys were being addressed by the principal, they were told to rein in children early, because once a TV–viewing pattern sets in, addiction follows and it then becomes difficult to control them.
"Innumerable studies have been done to find out how much of TV viewing schoolchildren should be exposed to and the clinical consensus is that anything beyond eight hours a week leads kids on to idiocy. So please do not watch that serial with your child by your side, mothers," warned principal Sunirmal Chakravarthi.
Cartoons like Shin Chan, which are shown on Hungama channel, are considered the worst offenders because the heroes thrive on aggression, use rude body language and are essentially bullies. They are favourites among children who try their best to ape these characters and bring them to life in school. Reality shows that promote daring acts, WWF and racing shows are also anathema for schools.
"In most homes, the TV is on throughout the day. So right from the time a child is able to comprehend the world around him, the switched–on television becomes part of his world and naturally, it crawls into his system," said Anjela Ghosh, junior school head at St James’ School.
"Most kids go back to an empty home run by servants. Naturally, TV is the only talking gadget with which kids
unknowingly start communicating. The aggression that they absorb from TV comes back to the campus. While kids and their parents are constantly counselled against Shin Chan because the character is a bully and teaches children to disrespect elders. Mr Bean teaches crude and slapstick mannerisms," Ghosh said.
A large number of kids are picking up swear words from WWF shows and channels that show racing events of cars, bikes, etc. These swear words are audible and perhaps channels strategically use them to attract viewers. "Children simply carry them to school and exchange these among friends. Whenever a fight breaks out, swear words fly, especially if it’s a boys school," said Shipra Banerjee, whose son has just passed out of MP Birla Foundation.
Some schools rate reality shows involving daring acts as more dangerous. They feel that kids are naturally drawn to these shows because these acts are impossible to achieve. "Even five years ago, I didn’t come across aggression of the kind that has become prevalent among kids today.
It is common to see classmates circling a kid in an effort to beat up or overpower him. Again, there are so many who are constantly aping stunts they saw the previous night on reality shows, and in the process, they seriously injure themselves," said Krishna Damani, spokesperson of South Point School, which is also constantly counselling parents and kids against more than an hour’s TV viewing a day.
In the coming "open house" session with parents next week, Lakshmipat Singhania will send around a circular, asking parents to keep children off certain channels because irrational TV viewing is affecting children’s faculties. "We will ask children to keep a tab on each other’s TV viewing habits so that all aberrations get reported to the teachers," said principal Meena Kak.
Telly addiction like drug dependence: Experts Prithvijit Mitra
Kolkata: More than half of Kolkata’s children aged between 6 and 12 years watch television for more than four hours a day. Most are hooked on adult fare like movies and serials, and are exposed to sexually explicit and violent scenes several times a day. A study by city psychiatrists reveals the disturbing facts and says that TV is directly responsible for aggressive behaviour in teenagers apart from leading to physical disorders like paediatric diabetes and obesity–induced cardiac diseases.
The idiot box is also making children lose their innocence and behave like adults, say experts.
"They are developing a fondness and affinity for adult habits. Without even realizing the implications, they are trying to get into relationships or just aping the violence they are being routinely exposed to. This is leaving the youngsters confused but craving for more. It has become a kind of an addiction for many," explained Siladitya Ray, consultant psychiatrist, BP Poddar Hospital.
It starts with cartoon channels, but children no longer restrict themselves to these. By the time they turn eight, most have watched English movie channels and are hooked on at least one soap, which is not meant for children. Psychiatrist Satyabrata Kar cited the instance of a nine–year–old boy, who defied his parents and watched the film ‘Basic Instinct’.
"He started preparing to watch the film from the time promos were aired announcing the screening. His parents initially refused to let him watch, but he threatened to stop going to school if he was denied permission. Soon, the boy stopped watching cartoons and got addicted to adult movies," said Kar.
Scenes of sex crimes and violence in our films have an adverse effect on children, according to experts. They start taking violence as a part of life and develop an aggressive outlook. There have been cases where youngsters admitted having aped a murder scene on TV and even tried it on a friend.
"The romance portrayed in Bollywood movies takes children to a make–believe world. They start believing that they can become heroes and heroines by sheer luck and don’t need to work hard. These children lose interest in books and steadily deteriorate in their academic performance. What’s even more disturbing is that they start behaving like adults," said consultant psychiatrist Amarnath Mallik.
Addiction to TV now has to be treated like drug dependence, believe experts. Youngsters can’t be forced to stay away from the idiot box overnight. Rather, they need to be counselled and made to restrict their viewing both in terms of channel selection and watching duration. Ray treated a 10–year–old girl who went into depression after her parents snapped the cable connection.
"Watching TV serves as a binding factor for youngsters. It is by discussing the TV serials and films on TV that they grow a camaraderie. If that is taken away, they feel lost. So, restriction and not denial is the way out," explained Ray.
Experts recommend an early beginning to the monitoring system. Children should be given to understand that they can’t watch TV at will and that they must earn the right to watch by being disciplined in their lives. Viewing time, they say, need to be restricted to one hour every day.
"Most importantly, parents need to set an example for their kids by not watching TV all evening. If they do and force their children to stay away, the latter will watch TV on the sly. Unmonitored viewing could be even more harmful," pointed out Kar.
More than 50% children below 12 years in Kolkata watch TV for at least four hours every day It is a myth that children watch just cartoon channels on TV. Sexually explicit adult movies, reality shows and serials are more frequently watched by children Nearly a fourth of the children admit that they have enjoyed watching violent scenes and tried to imitate them A substantial percentage of children hooked to TV are likely to fall prey to behavioural and physical disorders
The ill–effects of TV
watching are here to stay.
‘You can’t wish them away. We must reason with our children and make them realize that all that is being shown is not meant for them Debashish Basu | PREVENTIVE MEDICINE SPECIALIST