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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. I’m disgusted with the effects watching television has on my studies and so I shun it from my university lifestyle.

Yet, I’m a communications student devoted to understanding and using media effectively to improve life for everyone. It’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 collegians’ lives weren’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 collegians’ effectiveness and productivity.

(For brevity’s sake, I’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, I’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 isn’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 they’re trying to concentrate on other things—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 television’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 student’s effectiveness when it is left on while the student is reading. Since reading comprehension is necessary in all walks of a university lifestyle—even the most visual academic pursuits use textbooks to aid in the learning process—Bogle’s study has widespread application. Background television weakens the efficiency of all college-goers.

Supplementing the problem is that students don’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, it’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. Bogle’s conclusion is clear and firm, “Students should not study with television or radio on if they wish to do their best work.”

There are few arguments against the outcome of Bogle’s study. One refutation is that it’s not specifically television that lowers the reading level, but that any background distraction in general is detrimental to the studious. It’s not hard to accept that most sorts of distractions would adversely affect someone’s reading level. However, the outcome of television’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 hasn’t been made. Even so, acceding to a spectrum of varied distraction levels dependent on programming doesn’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 student’s boon at the flip of a channel.

Take Action

Regardless of other insights, Bogle’s experiment alone should be enough to inspire adjustments to study habits. Some community groups and online forums have already dedicated themselves to television’s eradication. TV-Free America, a fast-growing national movement, sponsors an annual “TV-turnoff week” 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 “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.”

The week has some cable companies worried, but not just because they’ll lose viewers for that week. Regarding the week, a representative for the National Cable TV Association said, “What kind of message does that send? … CSPI or some parents’ group will release studies showing that fewer murders occurred during the week without TV, and we’ll be on the defensive.” 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 isn’t found in such extremist views as turning off all of the TVs or leaving them all on. In 2001, the Surgeon General’s Priorities for Action spoke to the issue. It said, “Reduce time spent watching television and in other similar sedentary behaviors.” The Surgeon General was speaking more to the necessities of maintaining good health than to television’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: “[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.”

So get out and do something higher up on the cultural chain. Start by turning off your television while you study. Then, if you’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 you’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.

Thank goodness I don't own a Tivo

I think the most important part of the argument is "[making] specific decisions about what and when you watch." I don't think that I have a TV problem (thanks to my parents, who forbade TV on school nights), but it's really easy to slip into the L&O marathon on TNT. I can't help it, TNT knows drama. They say so themselves. But when I give myself specific rules about watching TV, like allowing myself to watch Alias only after I'm done studying, or not allowing myself to watch another Paris Hilton countdown on VH1, I don't feel like the TV has control over my life.

Media has a lot of good things to offer. But everything in moderation, right?

I gotta have my 24.

I gotta have my 24.

TV and College Students

I would like to know if any studies have been done comparing college students who excessively watch TV and those who view films or documentaries for similar time periods minus the commercials. Personally, the sitcoms, reality shows, game shows, and the like don't do anything for me. They do make me want to get up and play guitar out on my porch. However, I love a good film about a true story that happened in the past. Is there a difference? Somebody let me know, I'm honestly interested.

Update Link to Full Document

I moved servers, so here's the updated link to the full document "Down the Tube" in PDF:

http://www.kennymcnett.com/data/BYU/KENNY%20MCNETT%20Down%20the%20Tube.pdf

it's just a matter of self-discipline

Many scientists contributed to the development of television, and no one person can be called its inventor. Experiments leading to the invention of TV began in the 1800's, but progress was slow. Television as we know it today was not developed until the 1920 and it had little importance in communication until the late 1940. It gained importance in most countries in the 1950's and since then, television has become part of most homes in many countries of the world. In addition, many organizations, such as businesses, hospitals, and schools now use television for their own purposes. Despite the development of the Internet, television is still one of the most important sources of information & effective means of communication. It plays such a significant role in people’s everyday lives that it is almost impossible to imagine how we would live if there were no TV.

I am in front of you to prove the importance of television and the need for television to help nurture its positive aspects.

Information dissemination
Instead of waiting for the news to be printed tomorrow, one can watch the television for the happenings here and now. With just a click of a button of the remote control, one will be able to view any channel available on the TV. All stations broadcast brief summaries of local, national, and international news every day. If you want to know about the weather, broadcasts are done to aid you in planning your activities accordingly.

Education
TV promotes time-independence. For example, you are interested in a recipe airing, but you have to do the laundry as soon as possible. What you can do is program your VCR to record the event and attend to it at a more convenient time.

It also supports place-independence. One is able to receive instructions from another despite the distance between the two persons. The learner can receive televised instructional events from hundreds, even thousands of miles away.

It encourages modeling as well. The potential of repetitive viewing of an instructional event provides for some far-reaching cognitive effects. Repetition may mean not only that the learner is better able to grasp the instructor's teachings, but also that the learner would better be able to imitate the instructor's style of presenting certain ideas. In this fashion, the instructor may become more than just a guide—he becomes a role model of the content. For psychomotor-type training exercises, one may find a manipulation of this effect to be useful.

It improves memory. Repetition improves recall and increasing repetitions will further integrate new information into one's long-term-memory store. I would like to share a part of Bruce Charles Chatwin’s 1987 book, Utz.
"To avoid monotony and to help file a concept in both visual and aural memory, repeat the concept visually if it was first introduced aurally and vice versa. Now there will be two mental routes to the concept rather than one. Better yet, devise a tactile, verbal, or physical response to reinforce the fact or idea." …"The more 'handles' a fact has, the easier it is to grab." [555]
The more ways you find in taking the information, the better your chances of making it stay in your memory.

For children, quality children’s programming can teach a child basic academic skills, such as the ABCs, counting, addition, science fundamentals, basic language skills, manners, and even early reading skills. A child can also view things he might not otherwise see in daily life, like exotic animals, distant lands, musical instruments, historical places, and diverse lifestyles. He can learn about the world beyond his home and neighborhood. Also, from wholesome programming, he can learn basic social skills, such as how to play with other children, and how to use good manners.

It is worth noting that captioned television shows can be especially helpful with children who are deaf and hard of hearing, studying English as a second language, or having difficulty learning to read.

Convenience
In this fast-paced world we are in, people hardly have enough time to stop and read. For them to be up-to-date, the television is the perfect resolve for this matter. It combines aspects of print and radio with the clarity of video. Instead of just reading or listening to what happened in a story, television viewers can see it as well. With proper editing, television is the most compelling and attention-grabbing medium. It is designed to hold the viewers attention for short periods of time, yet it gives them information at their ease.

Advertising
Through the television, it is easier for advertisers to reach their target audience. With the wide range of coverage of the TV, people from different places all over the globe are given the chance to watch product and service endorsements. May they be poor or rich, male or female, they are given equal opportunity to avail of the product or service. A large, yet diverse audience is influenced.

Entertainment
A television set can set off live broadcast, be it sports or showbiz. This is the form of entertainment that people in rural areas can very well afford. This is readily available at their own time and at their own place. Viewing musical shows, favorite telenovelas and the like releases one’s fatigue and unstresses the body. In addition, if one has cable TV, there are channels exclusively for sports. One can view various games happening simultaneously anywhere. After a day’s hard work, people need to relax and refresh their muscles. Watching television shows is one of the methods to relax your mind and body

Some people may say that the television is detrimental to a person, may it be physically, mentally, emotionally or any other apsect of his being. In actuality, it is not. The television was made for a purpose. Whatever that initial purpose may be, the TV has acquired more importance now. The television is just a thing, a thing to make people’s lives better and easier. How this widely used telecommunication system affects people is just a matter of responsible parental guidance for children, and self-discipline for the rest of the population. Blaming the television is a politically expedient scapegoat. See what a coward man is? Displacing his guilt on a box.

The television, made by man’s ingenuity, abused by man’s cruelty, blamed by man’s stupidity.

Drama is...its life...

But isn't it hard to pull away? Just this weekend I watched about four hours of the Steven Seagal marathon on USA. I've never watched so many movies with the word "kill" in the title before. And I certainly had better things to do.

And don't get me started on Law & Order; I've seen so many murders you would think I was living in D.C.

yawn

there is no way i am reading through all of that.

umm...no

So, no offense, but I think this is crap, and have put my opinion right next to the author’s opinion. Notice the author shows no evidence for his statements.
Information dissemination
“All stations broadcast brief summaries of local, national, and international news every day.” This is the problem. You only get a brief summary. They never broadcast the whole story, because by the time they have it, it is old news.
Education
”TV promotes time-independence. For example, you are interested in a recipe airing, but you have to do the laundry as soon as possible. What you can do is program your VCR to record the event and attend to it at a more convenient time.” Even with Tivo, this is an incorrect statement. All this means, is that instead of wasting time now, you can waste it later. Down at the bottom, it talks about lives being very busy. Ever wonder why?
“It also supports place-independence.” This is true, although I wouldn’t call it a saving grace.
“It encourages modeling as well. The potential of repetitive viewing of an instructional event provides for some far-reaching cognitive effects. Repetition may mean not only that the learner is better able to grasp the instructor’s teachings, but also that the learner would better be able to imitate the instructor’s style of presenting certain ideas. In this fashion, the instructor may become more than just a guide—he becomes a role model of the content. For psychomotor-type training exercises, one may find a manipulation of this effect to be useful.” Now, this is the bane of TV. This repetition doesn’t promote long term memory, it promotes short term memory, or no memory at all. Why would someone commit it to memory, if all they have to do is turn it back on to watch it again? Long term memory is developed by knowing that you only have one or two opportunities to collect the information, not infinite opportunities.
“It improves memory.” Again, this is wrong, it does the opposite.
“For children, quality children’s programming can teach a child basic academic skills, such as the ABCs, counting, addition, science fundamentals, basic language skills, manners, and even early reading skills.” This is true, but only for an introduction. A child needs to go beyond TV to really grasp these basics.
“A child can also view things he might not otherwise see in daily life, like exotic animals, distant lands, musical instruments, historical places, and diverse lifestyles. He can learn about the world beyond his home and neighborhood.” This is the only saving grace of TV.
“Also, from wholesome programming, he can learn basic social skills, such as how to play with other children, and how to use good manners.” Again, only an introduction, not a full grasp.
“It is worth noting that captioned television shows can be especially helpful with children who are deaf and hard of hearing, studying English as a second language, or having difficulty learning to read.” If a child is having difficulty reading, the solution is more reading, and less TV.
Convenience
”In this fast-paced world we are in, people hardly have enough time to stop and read.” That is because they are watching TV.
“For them to be up-to-date, the television is the perfect resolve for this matter.” Reading and radio are the perfect resolve.
“With proper editing, television is the most compelling and attention-grabbing medium. It is designed to hold the viewers attention for short periods of time, yet it gives them information at their ease.” This is true, and why TV isn’t that great. Proper editing = propaganda. The small amount of information is what someone else thinks we need to see, is always skewed, and never the full story.
Advertising
”Through the television, it is easier for advertisers to reach their target audience.” This is true, and is only good for the advertiser, not the consumer.
Entertainment
”A television set can set off live broadcast, be it sports or showbiz. This is the form of entertainment that people in rural areas can very well afford. This is readily available at their own time and at their own place. Viewing musical shows, favorite telenovelas and the like releases one’s fatigue and unstresses the body. In addition, if one has cable TV, there are channels exclusively for sports. One can view various games happening simultaneously anywhere. After a day’s hard work, people need to relax and refresh their muscles. Watching television shows is one of the methods to relax your mind and body.” This is true, but I doubt it is a saving grace.

What happens if you eliminate TV in your lives?
1. Your stressful life has more time to read and spend with your family.
2. You have more time to converse with other people, and your children get more opportunities to listen to meaningful adult conversation.
3. Between your children reading more, and listen to adult vocabulary more, there own vocabulary and comprehension will increase. They also have an opportunity to ask questions, and get responses, furthering their intellectual growth. This will help them when they want to get into a real college or university.
4. Your children will also develop better speaking and communication skills, because they are forced to. This will help them better express themselves, which will prove advantageous in the future.

We're just not that exciting

Well... the popularity of stations like TNT is further proof that we can't get over the fact that life in Provo isn't full of suspense and twists and turns. Sometimes it's nice to think that we too can be as clever or cool as Jennifer Garner and Mariska Hargitay's characters... or, maybe that's just me. And I'm pathetic.

Well in my opinion there

Well in my opinion there must be a balance u know...
As we know that people use to say that excess of everything is bad...
Whether u r watching tv or consuming more time on cheap web hosting
...its not good.
Their must be a balance.One should realize that we get knowledge from media these days and Tv is of great importance in getting knowledge these days...
So i would like to suggest that college students may can watch TV,but not too much...their must be a time table u know...
They must not spend most of their time at watching TV,primary focus must be on studies...!

Hulu.com and that's about it

TV is an addiction in my eyes. When I do have a chance to sit and watch, there are usually a ton of shoes that keep my interest...in the tv...and away from other more important things. SO as of late, I don't watch any TV, I watch DVD movies sometimes and get my weekly updates off Hulu.com and that's about it.