The evils of watching too much TV

Traditional Jews long understood that the home is not just a dorm and restaurant: It is the center of the child’s world, and it is the heart of the family. As such, it demands protection. Heart infections kill. Influences that are only offensive on the streets can be deadly in the den . . . In March 1975, four leading, traditional Jewish scholars issued an advisory warning about television to traditional Jewish communities.(2) Their paper was rooted entirely in Talmudic sources and contained no references to the scientific literature. Nonetheless, it cited what secular scholars would term psychological and developmental dangers. It suggested that these dangers were related to both content and medium, and it recommended that parents not expose their children to television . . . By 1980, investigators had produced 2,500 studies on the effects of watching television, and the Talmudic scholars’ early warning was beginning to look less provincial and more prophetic.

How is the TV treated in your home? Does it have its own room? Do you like it better than your brother? How about your mother? Do you like it better than your great-grandfather? Does it get much rest? * Do your parents spend more time with it than they do with you? Do they spend more money on it than they do on you? . . . Does TV prevent you from doing things that you should do like being a better friend, or helping with the dishes, or doing work for your great-grandfather? If it does, do you think it’s really your friend? Maybe it’s not your best friend. Maybe the Savior would want you to try to find better company, at least some of the time.

There’s good evidence that kids get fatter as they watch more TV and that lots of gaming can increase a teen’s aggression and anxiety. But it’s been harder to tell if watching TV and gaming play a role in depression, which usually first surfaces in adolescence or young adulthood and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. The evidence already out there suggests that people who watch lots of TV tend to be more depressed, but that could just be because unhappy people like to watch TV.

“The remarkable thing about television is that it permits several million people to laugh at the same joke and still feel lonely.” – T.S. Eliot

longer television watching was associated with increased obesity, lower intake of fresh produce, and decreased physical activity. But increased television watching was also correlated with decreased psychological health. More specifically, as hours of television increased, so too did a person’s level of depression and anxiety. . . people who watched more than two hours of television a day but got the recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day were still more likely to feel depressed and anxious.”

…every hour that [kids between 6 and 12 years of age] watched adult programming [defined as adult situations or language relating to sexual innuendo and graphic violence] . . . led to a 33 percent increase in the chances that they’d have sex by the time they were between 12 and 14 years old. . . If parents don’t address these issues with children, [kids] develop their ideas about what being an adult entails based on what the media provides as a reference.” He also points to surveys that have been performed since the ’70s finding that teenagers pretty consistently point to TV and movies as leading sources of information about sex and relationships.

. . . men who were exposed to images of the so-called “ideal” male became more depressed and significantly more dissatisfied with the size and shape of their own muscular build once they were exposed to those commercials. Whereas men who watched neutral commercials of insurance salesmen in suits experienced no effects.

TV, and the media in general, is also a central component of materialism, as it is where we find out what the latest trends are and in many cases, those who are on TV are the idols of the consumer society – they are what we should all strive to be (wealthy, good-looking, and famous).

A study conducted by University of Pittsburgh and Harvard Medical School found that the more adolescents watched television, the more likely they were to be depressed. Only six percent of those that spend fewer than three hours per day watching television developed depression over the course of the study, while 17 percent of those that watched television more than nine hours per day developed depression.

Each extra hour of TV (above the average) was associated with an 8 percent greater risk of depression, said lead researcher Dr. Brian Primack, assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at University of Pittsburgh.

Analyzing 30-years worth of national data from time-use studies and a continuing series of social attitude surveys, the Maryland researchers report that spending time watching television may contribute to viewers’ happiness in the moment, with less positive effects in the long run.

“There may be just as many messages that make boys feel inadequate,” Primack says. “You have to be as funny as Chris Rock, as charming as James Bond, as talented as a pro athlete.”

Researchers found that too much artificial light at night can alter mood and lead to similar symptoms to depression such as lack of energy and enthusiasm. . . The “blue light” from televisions could be especially disruptive.

The study, reported in the journal Psychopathology, found 1.2% of people surveyed were “internet addicts”, and many of these were depressed.

“People who spend a lot of time on the Internet are more likely to be depressed – or at least show depressive symptoms. That’s according to new research from the University of Leeds that suggests there’s a “darker side” to the role the web is playing in our lives.

. . . a random sampling of 552 adults, aged 19 to 90, from the Seattle-Tacoma area. Roughly 45 percent, or 249 people, were found to be video game players, with men accounting for 56 percent of this sampling. The men who played games weighed more, on average, than the non-gamers, while the women were found to have greater levels of depression and had overall poorer health.

Happy people tended to watch approximately 19 hours of television a week, while unhappy people watched closer to 25 hours a week. Additionally, the happy group was more socially active. . .

Our sensitivities have been battered unceasingly by the ever-descending levels of taste plumbed by the producers of [reality TV] shows. But far more insidious and dangerous is the effect they have on our mental health. I have interviewed some of the wannabe contestants and I am sure that, at least in some cases, participation is damaging. And the problem goes beyond that. Compared with, say, soap operas, RTV is more harmful to viewers as well.

Watching TV can lead to not spending hours with friends. This is because ether the child is isolating itself from social activity. This can lead to a child being depressed, angry and acting out. A child who is indoors all the time and watching TV will be less likely to burn off their energy. Many times, children who watch TV all day have weight issues. Then at school, they will be picked and they will not make any friends. Social skills are very hard to develop at an advanced age.

The average American, by the time he is sixty years old, will have spent fifteen years staring at the TV screen. . . Many people find watching TV “relaxing.” Observe yourself closely and you will find that the longer the screen remains the focus of your attention, the more your thought activity becomes suspended, and for long periods you are watching the talk show, game show, sitcom, or even commercials with almost no thought being generated by your mind.

Americans leave their televisions on an average of 8 hours and 18 minutes per day, while sleeping only 6 hours and 40 minutes. As Ron Weasley (Harry Potter) says, we “need to get our priorities straight.”

James Cameron’s completely immersive spectacle “Avatar” may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora.

“Ever since I went to see ‘Avatar’ I have been depressed. Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na’vi made me want to be one of them. I can’t stop thinking about all the things that happened in the film and all of the tears and shivers I got from it. I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora, and then everything is the same as in ‘Avatar.’” . . . the cinema is not meant to be reality, no matter how lifelike the 3D effects may be.

“We have to say to our kids, ‘You know, this show that you’re watching or this store window are showing outfits and things that are not real life,’ “ she said. “ ‘And even in real life, just because other parents allow things, I’m not going to allow it.’ It’s OK to fight battles with your kids. This is absolutely a battle worth fighting.”

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