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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 their bedrooms.

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 isolated.

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 neurotransmitters.

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 process).

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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