The Impact Of Television

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THE IMPACT OF TELEVISION What are the effects of television? Are there ANY effects of television? Is television a force for violence or is it simply 'visual valium' as one judge put it? Does it remove our ability to think or ruin our conversational abilities? Or is it the force for enlightenment that is sometimes claimed? If television does have an effect on us it certainly should show up strongly, because no popular diversion in history has rivalled the people-hours given to television. Time spent watching television is right up there with parenting and formal education, as well as all our spare time pursuits. Only work time outstrips it for many people. Reading books, going to the theatre, listening to or playing music, making your own conversation or amusing yourself have all given way to the inroads of television time. Prima facie the effects of television, whatever they are, if they are, must be important simply because of the amount of time people spend watching it.

But it isn't easy to assess. For a start, viewing times vary across the age range. It seems children and teenagers are watching less than they used to and the group most heavily into TV is the senior citizens. Television is also more important to poorer people, because these days it has become the cheapest form of escapism, plus it may be presumed that poor people need escapism most. However, different ages and socioeconomic groups don't all watch the same types of programs, with the result that the effect of the medium is likely to be different for different groups. New uses for the television screen, such as computer games, further complicate the issue. The ultimate complication might be a form of social feedback in which program makers, ratings driven, illustrate the latest form...