It is a good question… This week I got asked a particular question to do with the fact that I often refer to TV watching throughout my work… You may have guessed that I love TV… I really do… At the moment, I am utterly engrossed with Lost, 24, Fringe and laugh out loud at the TV, get emotional and so much more… I wanted to share with you what I think about this idea that some people say about TV making people stupid or limiting us in some way…
A few months ago, in his brilliant weekly ezine, a man I love — Kevin Hogan — got asked a similar question to me and he responded very differently to how I would have done… First of all, here is the question and answer from Kevin:
Question: Kevin, You talk about the TV shows you watch. Almost every motivational speaker I listen to derides television as mind candy or worse and you are this proponent. How do you justify your sitting in front of the tube for Survivor and Lost and the like?
Answer: And the problem with mind candy is____?
Your motivational speakers are full of cra… First, there is no evidence that shows that television as a form of recreation is any better or worse (in whatever sense) than going to the movies, the beach, watching the kids play football or hiking in the mountains.
Motivational speakers, as you call them, often find a good finger to point to as to why people aren’t achieving. Must be in the TV that they watch. What nonsense. It’s in the actions and momentum building activities they don’t take.
I generate about 150,000 words per YEAR in written material alone. My income is no different than any other top tier motivational speaker, I certainly out produce almost all, if not all of them, and I am happy to tell you that I enjoy Lost, 24, Survivor, Mad Men and I’m sure every now and then something else. There are only 168 hours in a week but clearly there are only so many hours I can use for entertainment.
When people start out-producing me, then I’ll be more interested in their unscientifically formed opinions on entertainment choices. Until then they are blowing nothing but hot air. For now, just think about it, what is the difference between going to the movies, the dance recital, the theater vs. watching 24? Answer: It’s cheaper to watch 24 and nothing else. I’m not going to tell anyone what kind of entertainment they deserve and the fact that something is “mind candy” makes it all the better after 16 hours of writing, developing, producing, creating, coaching, training… I thoroughly enjoy various kinds of “mind candy.”
Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do with your leisure moments. Life has simple pleasures. Don’t let anyone take away those pleasures. All of that said, if people aren’t doing some set dollar figure in net income, they should be hesitant about playing before getting results in their life, and, that would include, going to the park, the theater, the rink, watching TV or much of anything until they have momentum in their business so they can make it through the coming difficult times.
I really like Kevin’s response there.
I’d say, that quite a lot of us enjoy particular shows, get enjoyment from some and learn from others… I certainly use TV shows to illustrate much of the theories in my work…
Before I give you my answer … Let me give you his question:
Adam, you refer to Red Dwarf a lot in your articles and work and other sci-fi tv shows. I always read that TV viewing is mindless and I am not sure if I would want my own children growing up being able to quote as much TV as you do, no offence intended. I must add that I love your work and love your hypnosis sessions and you have helped me in many ways you may never know.
How do you defend watching so much TV against so much opposition from your peers? How would you defend my question to me? I am interested in this.
Ok, so before I give my answer, what would you answer? Come on, have a think of how you would answer if you were in my shoes…
Synonyms of television include “idiot box,” “boob tube,” “goggle box,” and other equally unflattering descriptions. A frequent television viewer is often referred to as a “couch potato.” Is it true that the TV removes our ability to think for ourselves? Does it really turn us into ‘thickos’?
These kinds of negative attitudes to TV are older than most of us… many people tend to harbour a collective suspicion, that TV damages children in various ways… From encouraging antisocial attitudes and violence to promoting unhealthy eating habits and obesity… What I want to ask today, does it really lower their intelligence?
it would seem that educational researchers have been looking closely at this issue for decades… There is much research on this subject indeed.
Though as is often the case with these things, this big body of research offers up varying results which are full of complexity and ambiguity.
If you ask whether children who watch a lot of TV do worse in school, the outcome depends on what sort of home they live in. If the parents are middle class, then a lot of TV viewing goes along with lower school grades. Evidently TV time precludes interaction with the parents that may be intellectually enriching not to mention eating into time available for homework. For these reasons, and others, children should not watch more than three hours of TV per day according to reasearch findings.
Results for children of impoverished parents are altogether different. The more TV they watch, the better their marks at school. If parents are not stimulating, then the kids do better watching the ‘idiot box’ than conversing with their parents, sad to say… Incidentally, it is not just a stereotype that poor homes are intellectually impoverishing. Observational research has shown that parents on welfare spend far less time talking to their children than working class, or professional parents, resulting in an impoverished vocabulary.
So much for families! What about countries? Children in wealthier nations score higher on IQ, do better in tests of school learning, and attain higher levels of education. (The UK and the US are often highlighted as a relatively under achieving affluent country, particularly in maths and science).
How does one account for the greater academic success in wealthy countries? It could be that they have more money to invest in schools, that parents prepare their children better for success in education, or that daily life requires more complex thinking and problem-solving. One way of combining all of these explanations is to note that education and intelligence are more important for success in urban economies than they are on farms. Alternatively, children in wealthy countries receive more brain stimulation through mass media.
When you read the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (conducted in 1999), you can see that the academic advantages of wealthier countries were explainable in terms of the number of newspapers printed and the number of TV sets per thousand people.
So here we have evidence consistent with the argument that mass media are intellectually enriching. Availability of televisions was particularly important for achievement in science. Such findings are intriguing and clearly not consistent with the view of TV as idiot box. Yet, it pays to be skeptical. Just because there were a lot of newspapers lying around in a country, it does not mean that children were reading them — even in 1999. Just because there were a lot of TVs in the country, it did not mean that more children were watching them, either.
Fortunately, another study, Progress in International Reading Literacy (2001), asked children about their use of leisure time, including TV viewing and computer access. Countries in which a larger proportion of children watched TV every day had higher reading achievement scores, which implies that they have higher IQ scores (as these two are very highly correlated). Daily access to computers provided similar benefits. What is more, use of these electronic media fully explained why children in affluent countries do better in school.
Just as TV is potentially enriching for youngsters in poor homes, it is also enriching for children in poor countries. Kids who watch television in moderation do better in school which is another way of saying that they have become more intelligent. So much for the idiot box!
I do many other things… I run along the sea front, I socialise often, I study and do many other things… And I do love the television… For sheer, bloody-minded entertainment, for fantasy escapsim and for a peak through the window of life and nature, I truly love it…