Television & Computer Effects on Learning and Emotional Intelligence
By Iris Fanning
As a counselor and life coach I have always taken a strong stand against
having a television or computer in any child or teens' bedroom, period.
Yes, we used this rule in our own home. We had objections at times and
that's alright. It didn't change our actions.
My rationale is two fold. First, I see the social isolation, decrease in
social/emotional skills, decrease in peer interaction and increase
disrespect of authority from children and teens who have electronics in
Having visual electronics in kids' bedrooms decreases the amount of time
families spend together, increases the risk of early exposure to
pornography and children acting out sexually, decreases the number of
family dinners, and decreases the amount of social play time with other
young people. The negative impact of this is apparent in school as well.
These children have a shorter attention span, more often want to get
their way, have lower than average social skills and often feel socially
The second reason, is knowing a thing or two about brain development, I
knew that TV and computer use does not tap into the normal brain
development and brain stimulation needed to make our young people
healthy and happy. Now we have plenty of research to back that up.
Let's look at the summary of research from Joseph Chilton Pearce who is
a scholar, scientist and teacher. He states: "First, if you want
intelligent, successful and healthy children they must have positive
emotional experiences. This starts in the home through unconditional
love, appropriate loving touch and a safe, secure environment. Then it
extends into our learning environments. If you want true learning,
learning that involves the higher frontal lobes...the intellectual
creative brain...the emotional environment must be positive and
supportive. The first sign of anxiety the brain shifts its functions
from the high, prefrontal lobes to the old defenses of the reptilian
brain." To put it simply: In order to have a higher functioning child we
need to nurture head and heart. The heart and brain communicate with one
another in an intricate symphony of ganglia cells, neural networks and
Pearce talks about the harmful effects of television and computers on
growing brains regardless of content. "Television literally prevents
neural growth in the developing brains of children. When young children
watch too much, it suppresses the capacity of their brains to develop
imagination." This has to do with the way that the brain reacts to
radiant light. Children's brains "shut down" (stop the thinking
The television industry has countered this by introducing "startle
effects" into children's programming. This triggers the brain into
thinking there might be an emergency and alerts the brain to pay special
attention. This is accomplished by dramatic changes in the intensity of
light, sound and rapid shifting camera angles. According to Pearce
"Every 10 years the TV industry ups the ante by making the startles
bigger, there are now an average of 16 bits of violence every half hour
in children's cartoons. The moment the heart receives any indication of
negativity or danger it drops out of its usual harmonic mode into an
incoherent one, triggering the release of the single most potent hormone
in the human body, known as cortisol. Cortisol instantly wakes up the
brain and causes it to produce trillions of neural links in order to
ready the individual to face the emergency."
Computer monitors have a similar effect due to the radiant light.
Researchers' assigned students to 3 groups where the same information
was presented on a fourth grade reading level in 3 different mediums.
Group A had a regular piece of paper; Group B was shown a movie with the
page; Group C viewed a computer monitor. Students were then tested for
retention of the information.
Group A averaged 85% retention after viewing a paper; Group B averaged
25% - 30% retention after viewing a movie screen; Group C averaged 3% -
5% retention after viewing a computer monitor. "Computers & television
are changing our children's brains. We must encourage our children to
develop the ability to think first and then give them a computer. Pearce
sites Piaget's developmental research " The first twelve years of life
are spent putting into place the structures of knowledge that enable
young people to grasp abstract, metaphoric, symbolic types of
information...the danger is that the computer and television will
interrupt that development."
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