I HAVE been doing a little re search into the vies■ing habits of children in my neighbourhood -w hich like any neighhouthood is made up of families of quite different social and educational backgrounds, and quite different approaches to parental control.
I find that, on average. the young members of the family spend something like two hours or day watching television sonic more. and some less. At weekends the figure goes up to as much as five hours on both Saturday and Sunday.
This means that children. in one week, may spend something like 15 to 20 hours looking at TV. 1 have done this piece of arithmetic because I have recently seen it put forward that TV probably makes no greater impact on the juvenile mind than did films in the days before we had television.
In order that this comparison should make any sense. it %%mild mean that children would have had to sit through something like five full-length films a sseck. I don't knoss about anyone else. but my pocket-money certainly did not run to that sort of thing.
I am no psychologist but I have always held the view that the real danger of television—so far as children are concerned—lies not so much in the quality of the programmes but it the quantity.
It will be claimed immediately that what the child sees on television is likely to he far better for him than what he eould see at the cinema. But here again I have my doubts. There are good educational programmes on TV hut, fairly understandably. these are not top-rating programmes so far as the juvenile TV addicts are concerned.
The most the surveys I've seen are prepared to say about the possible damaging effects of TV on a child is that. if he seems normal to begin with, then he seems to he able to weather this massive TV exposure relatively unscathed. (The surveys have been made mostly in America.) But it appears that if he's neurotic or perhaps inclined to be timid, then certain types of programme can reinforce such tendencies. Even if one accepts the thesis that a heavy daily diet of anxiety and violence has little
ellect on the normal child, society surely has a considerable stake in the countless, youngsters not so fortunate in their psychological make-up.
Television must accept some of the blame for its programming. But I hold that the prime villains arc the parents who thoughtlessly eapose their offspring to clearly unsuitable programming and to far too much TV in general.
Since a great part of TV is commercial, competitive and above all a mass medium, it must of necessity appeal primarily in the evening to adult tastes.
But so far as children are concerned, ton many parents take the easy way out, allowing thee set to function as a baby sitter and allowing insistent youngsters In watch at times when they might be better occupied or even in bed.
The fact is that no matter how much TV improves. it remains imperative for parents to decide which shows (and how many of them) arc suitable—and which are not—and then enforce those edicts without fear or favour.