The (negative) effects of television on college students
The flicker is familiar. Accompanying late-night papers, college game days, and romantic moments, television makes its way into the university lifestyle. We quote it with our friends. We pump it for news. Some of us schedule our lives around it. But for others, the flicker is the signpost of an educational flatline. They mistrust television, reject it outright, and insist it's detrimental to everything an institution of learning stands for. Based on my experiences, I side with the latter opinion. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m disgusted with the effects watching television has on my studies and so I shun it from my university lifestyle.
Yet, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m a communications student devoted to understanding and using media effectively to improve life for everyone. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a scary thought to dismiss such a broad and influential medium based solely on personal experiences while my peers regard it so highly based on their own experiences. So I decided to take a harder look at my position by formally researching the subject. I was excited at the prospect of discovering that I had misjudged television entirely and thereby be able to admit that collegiansÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ lives werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t slowly being dragged down to a stagnant pool of inefficiency. But that discovery never came. Instead, my research gives credence to my previously unsupported position: television negatively impacts collegiansÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ effectiveness and productivity.
(For brevityÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sake, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll skip to the meat of my argument: a very interesting experiment conducted about how background TV affects reading comprehension. This is all part of a much larger paper with a bibliography, etc. To read it all, click here. For simplification, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve left off appropriate citations in this web version. The correct citations are in the full version.)
Impact of Television
I submit that the real impact of television on college students isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t derived from any direct effects of sitting down and watching television. In fact, the most alarming problem arises when collegians allow television to play in the background of their lives while theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re trying to concentrate on other thingsÃ¢â‚¬â€like reading.
In 1996, Kevin Bogle conducted an experiment at the Classen School of Advanced Studies in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The experiment was designed to test the silent reading comprehension level of college students and sixth grade students in three situations: in silence, with the radio on, and while a popular television show, Home Improvement, played in the room with them. In other words, the research tested the effect of background noise on their reading performance. The results were significant for both radio and TV for each age group, but I will focus on televisionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s effect on college students. Bogle found that
the 55 college students in this study averaged 13.4 (13th grade 4th month) reading level with the television and radio off. The same 55 students averaged 11.5 (11th grade 5th month) reading level with the television on. The television caused them to be more than 2 years BEHIND what they could perform normally.
So, television definitely lessens a studentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s effectiveness when it is left on while the student is reading. Since reading comprehension is necessary in all walks of a university lifestyleÃ¢â‚¬â€even the most visual academic pursuits use textbooks to aid in the learning processÃ¢â‚¬â€BogleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s study has widespread application. Background television weakens the efficiency of all college-goers.
Supplementing the problem is that students donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always have control over the television in their own home. Roommates or family members might watch TV in one room while a student is reading in the next. Considering that Bogle also surveyed his volunteers and found they had anticipated that music would cause the most interference, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s likely that student will forego listening to music to drown out the television and instead allow the television to persist in the background. That simple misconception costs the student a year in his reading comprehension.
The better choice, though, would be for the student to use earplugs instead of earphones or move his studies to a quieter location. BogleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s conclusion is clear and firm, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Students should not study with television or radio on if they wish to do their best work.Ã¢â‚¬Â
There are few arguments against the outcome of BogleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s study. One refutation is that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not specifically television that lowers the reading level, but that any background distraction in general is detrimental to the studious. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not hard to accept that most sorts of distractions would adversely affect someoneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s reading level. However, the outcome of televisionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s influence as compared to that of rock music shows that there is variance in the strengths of the effects of distractions on students. Moreover, lumping television into a larger category of distractions does not at all reduce its potency. It should still be avoided while studying just as much as other distractions.
Another argument is that the distraction level varies with the type of programming on the television. A history program could help a history student, a nature program could help a budding biologist, and a sitcom could help a theater student. Admittedly, this argument could wield some validity. However, to my knowledge, such a specific study hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t been made. Even so, acceding to a spectrum of varied distraction levels dependent on programming doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t change the fact that television is a distraction. I find it unlikely that a medium that has such a large negative effect on studying would become a studentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s boon at the flip of a channel.
Regardless of other insights, BogleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s experiment alone should be enough to inspire adjustments to study habits. Some community groups and online forums have already dedicated themselves to televisionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s eradication. TV-Free America, a fast-growing national movement, sponsors an annual Ã¢â‚¬Å“TV-turnoff weekÃ¢â‚¬Â at the end of each April where participants refrain from viewing television for a week and encourage others to do the same. They try to offer people the chance to see what life is like without the tube. According to Mittell, the movement Ã¢â‚¬Å“seem[s] to be quite successful, adding approximately one million participants in each successive year; TV-Free America boasts that more than eighteen million people have participated in these weeks since 1995.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The week has some cable companies worried, but not just because theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll lose viewers for that week. Regarding the week, a representative for the National Cable TV Association said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“What kind of message does that send? Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ CSPI or some parentsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ group will release studies showing that fewer murders occurred during the week without TV, and weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be on the defensive.Ã¢â‚¬Â If people believe statistics that only seem to have a correlation to TV-turnoff week, but in reality do not, it could hurt the cable companies unnecessarily.
Perhaps, then, the solution isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t found in such extremist views as turning off all of the TVs or leaving them all on. In 2001, the Surgeon GeneralÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Priorities for Action spoke to the issue. It said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Reduce time spent watching television and in other similar sedentary behaviors.Ã¢â‚¬Â The Surgeon General was speaking more to the necessities of maintaining good health than to televisionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s effects on the goals of a college student, but the suggestion is still valid: reduce. Simply, reduce the time you spend with your TV so you can increase the time you have for other things. According to Mittell, there are many superior activities: Ã¢â‚¬Å“[T]elevision is generally defined as inferior within cultural hierarchies, lacking cultural capital when compared to books, theater, film, music, newspapers, and many other forms of culture.Ã¢â‚¬Â
So get out and do something higher up on the cultural chain. Start by turning off your television while you study. Then, if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re guilty, stop being one of the viewers Synnestvedt described that comes home and blindly flips on the tube, not bothering to judge its value. Instead, make specific decisions about what and when you watch. And when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re ready to muster the courage, cancel your cable, turn off your TV, and turn on your life.
Additional Information Added by Editors - 11/01/2007:
TV is negative at some points. Tv has made it easy for kids to see things that kids shouldn't. With a few clicks on the remote, kids can run an adult search and get a bunch of adult movies. Although the movie search comes in handy for finding movies for the proper age of children. It does beat video searching for you child's favorite Barney tape. Music on demand even allows for a ">music search. A negative is that some of it may be uncensored. I think tv has its goods and its bads.