The perils of watching TV

20 Apr

In the summer of 2010 the Daily Mail reported news of a psychologist telling the European parliament that there is a negative relationship between TV viewing and physical and psychological health and educational progression. The psychologist in question, Aric Sigman, went on to propose that the damage occurs when children view more that 90 minutes per day, when average viewing is between 3 and 5 times more than this.

This story allowed me to introduce a number of ideas to the students. Firstly, by encouraging students to look t where information is coming from they soon discover Aric Sigman’s previous work suggesting a relationship between Facebook use and cancer.

Beyond this it’s also interesting to deconstruct a number of the points made in the story. The suggestion that the average TV viewing of children is between 4.5 and 7.5 hours per day should, at the very least , be questioned. At best you might suspect that this is a median rather than mean figure. But rather more interesting this that the negative effects of TV watching appear irrespective of the content. By giving the students an extreme example i.e. watching 90 minutes of David Attenborough documentaries a day, and asking whether it’s plausible that this might have negative educational consequences you can establish that the relationships being reported are probably much more complex that the story makes them appear.

There are also points to be made here about correlation and causation, i.e. is it the TV viewing, or a generally sedentary life style that is causing the reported problems

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