Studies have shown that watching television induces low alpha waves in the human brain. Alpha waves are brainwaves between 8 to 12 HZ. and are commonly associated with relaxed meditative states as well as brain states associated with suggestibility.
While Alpha waves achieved through meditation are beneficial (they promote relaxation and insight), too much time spent in the low Alpha wave state caused by TV can cause unfocussed daydreaming and inability to concentrate. Researchers have said that watching television is similar to staring at a blank wall for several hours..
We all like to watch TV from time to time, and this is not meant to suggest that people should never watch TV again. However, it is only fair that people understand what happens to the brain each time it is exposed to television.
In an experiment in 1969, Herbert Krugman monitored a person through many trials and found that in less than one minute of television viewing, the person's brainwaves switched from Beta waves– brainwaves associated with active, logical thought– to primarily Alpha waves. When the subject stopped watching television and began reading a magazine, the brainwaves reverted to Beta waves.
Research indicates that most parts of the brain, including parts responsible for logical thought, tune out during television viewing. The impact of television viewing on one person's brain state is obviously not enough to conclude that the same consequences apply to everyone, but research has repeatedly shown that watching television produces brainwaves in the low Alpha range.
Advertisers have known about this for a long time and they know how to take advantage of this passive, suggestible, brain state of the TV viewer. There is no need for an advertiser to use subliminal messages. The brain is already in a receptive state, ready to absorb suggestions, within just a few seconds of the television being turned on. All advertisers have to do is flash a brand across the screen, and then attempt to make the viewer associate the product with something positive.
Reading (a book or magazine, for instance– not televised text. It is the radiant light from a television set that is believed to induce the slower brainwaves ) and writing both require higher brain wave states. If you want to keep your brain focused and your attention strong, it is a good idea to cut your television time. Sitting quietly for a few minutes, painting, singing, reading, or going for a walk, are better for you in all ways.
Effects on Kids Watching TV
First let's determine how big a presence is TV in your kids' lives?
- Statistics have shown that TV viewing among kids is at an eight-year high. On average, children ages 2-5 spend 32 hours a week in front of a TV—watching television, DVDs, DVR and videos, and using a game console. Kids ages 6-11 spend about 28 hours a week in front of the TV. The vast majority of this viewing (97%) is of live TV.
- 71% of 8- to 18-year-olds have a TV in their bedroom ; 54% have a DVD/VCR player, 37% have cable/satellite TV, and 20% have premium channels.
- We can now access TV content easier than ever before, such as on the Internet, cell phones and iPods. This has led to an increase in time spent viewing TV, even as TV-set viewing has declined. 41% of TV-viewing is now online, time-shifted, DVD or mobile.
- In about two-thirds of households, the TV is "usually" on during meals.
- In 53% of households of 7th- to 12th-graders, there are no rules about TV watching.
- In 51% of households, the TV is on "most" of the time.
- Kids with a TV in their bedroom spend an average of almost 1.5 hours more per day watching TV than kids without a TV in the bedroom.
- Many parents encourage their toddlers to watch television.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests to take a "better-safe-than-sorry" approach on TV for young children.
"It may be tempting to put your infant or toddler in front of the television, especially to watch shows created just for children under age two.
But the American Academy of Pediatrics says: Don't do it!
These early years are crucial in a child's development. The Academy is concerned about the impact of television programming intended for children younger than age two and how it could affect your child's development. Pediatricians strongly oppose targeted programming, especially when it's used to market toys, games, dolls, unhealthy food and other products to toddlers.
Any positive effect of television on infants and toddlers is still open to question, but the benefits of parent-child interactions are proven. Under age two, talking, singing, reading, listening to music or playing are far more important to a child's development than any TV show."
In addition, TV can discourage and replace more useful habits and processes. Reading requires much more thinking than television, and we know that reading fosters young people's healthy brain development. Kids from families that have the TV on a lot spend less time reading and being read to, and are less likely to be able to read.
As you can see, if your child is typical, TV is playing a very big role in their life. Here are some key research findings to keep in mind as you decide what kind of role you want TV to play in your family:
- TV viewing is probably replacing activities in your child' s life that you would rather have them do (things like playing with friends, being physically active, getting fresh air, playing imaginatively, doing homework, doing chores).
- Kids who spend more time watching TV (both with and without parents and siblings present) spend less time interacting with family members.
- Excessive TV viewing can contribute to poor grades, sleep problems, behavior problems, obesity, and risky behavior.
- Most children’s programming does not teach what parents say they want their children to learn; many shows are filled with stereotypes, violent solutions to problems, and mean behavior.
- Advertisers target kids, and on average, children see tens of thousands of TV commercials each year. This includes many ads for unhealthy snack foods and drinks. Children and youth see, on average, about 2,000 beer and wine ads on TV each year.
- Kids see favorite characters smoking, drinking, and involved in sexual situations and other risky behaviors in the shows and movies they watch on TV.
There are many good educational TV shows now that are available to watch but still, let's do all we can to prepare our kids (and ourselves) in the best way possible by limiting the TV and its harmful effects.