‘The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set -
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.’
Roald Dahl, the famous children’s author, must have hated the television for luring away children from the bookcase when he penned these lines. And, poor J L Baird must be turning in his grave, on his invention being labelled ‘idiotic’.
There are always two sides to a coin – the head and the tail. Probably Roald Dahl saw only the tail side, as was the case of the blind men and the elephant.
Well, let me try arguing the case for Baird.
It is a universal belief that watching television makes mere couch potatoes of children doing them more harm than good. This may be true to a great extent. However, watching television does have its benefits. Here are some of them -
The television has a great educational value. It can be used as a tool for learning, both at home as well as in classrooms. With the range of channels on offer, there is no dearth of educational content. Science, geography, history, travel, wildlife, sports, health, nutrition, agriculture – the list would be endless. All it needs is an intelligent parent or teacher to choose the right type of content that is relevant to the child. The educational value of television increases with its powerful visual effect. It ensures that children’s retention is better when they watch, let’s say, a documentary on wildlife, than when they pore over similar content in a printed book.
Medium of Information
In this age of knowledge explosion, children need to keep themselves updated on day-to-day happenings. There are a number of news channels, advertisements and documentaries which offer tons of information to children on a platter. Such information connects children with the entire world and ensures they stay in touch with what is happening all around them.
Social, civic and cultural awareness
Watching a variety of television programmes makes children aware of the society they live in and the prevalent standards and norms. Television educates children about various cultures and customs. It also ensures that children possess civic sense with an awareness of their duties as citizens.
Exposure to different languages
As there are channels telecasting programmes in different languages, children are initiated into becoming polyglots. Research proves that exposure is essential for any language to be learnt. When we speak of exposure, it is ‘listening’ that we emphasise. There are cases of individuals learning a language without any actual ‘listening’ taking place. They end up being able to read and write, but with very poor speaking skills in that language. This is where the television is a real boon. It provides the much-needed listening environment to children for learning different languages.
Opportunity for travel
How many parents can afford to take time off from work to travel to far-off places with their families? Well, the television transcends space and time. From the comforts of the living room, you are able to trot to all corners of the globe – from the icy Greenland to the Kalahari Desert. What a wonderful opportunity!
Logical and analytical thinking
Discussions are inevitable while watching television programmes, especially news items, documentaries and chat shows. Children get the opportunity to react to what they see depicted on television. They learn to reason out and apply logic while voicing their opinions on what they view. Even films trigger such conversations at home. Specific scenes, responses of characters to situations, the director’s handling of the plot, the way the plot culminates – all give ample scope for healthy discussions at home.
Source of inspiration
With even corporate gurus highlighting the power of influence, programmes on interviews of individuals who have achieved excellence in their respective fields influence children positively. It motivates them to perform better and set targets for themselves.
Bonding with family
What better way to unwind at the end of the day, as a family, than relaxing before the television. It is one activity that the family can engage in together, thus strengthening their bond.
Lest I am accused of being biased, I must agree that the television can have harmful effects too, especially when it becomes addictive.
However, we must agree that if put to judicious use, especially in the choice of programmes and the amount of time spent on viewing television, children and even adults can learn from this entertaining as well as informative medium.
The tube, the telly or the more common TV – call it by any name other than idiot box. It does have a high IQ (Infotainment Quotient) for it does combine Information and Entertainment.
Just bear in mind that the great Thomas Alva Edison was labelled ‘addled’ by his teacher. His mother pulled him out of school and home-tutored him. He went on to become a great genius.
Today, with so much information loaded in it, the television is a perfect home-tutor. Isn’t it high time we rechristened it?
I rest my case and may Baird rest in peace.