February 12, 2012

I think the problem with TV and kids isn’t really what they watch (content), but the medium itself. Because TV is so interesting and entertaining that kids do not make any effort to discover or create interesting, fascinating, or amusing things on their own. It’s very much like using calculators before they learn how to do simple arithmetic on their own; a part of their brains remains undeveloped. And, it is a very important part as it is what drives them to actively foster their own curiosity in life. I believe kids can become quite smart from watching a lot of TV (regardless of what they watch), but uncreative in their use of intelligence as there is no need to solve any problems when you are entertaining yourself by watching TV. 

My theory here comes from observing my own child. She watches a lot of TV and whenever she is home, she is constantly whining to watch TV. If I let her watch as much TV as she wants, she would literally watch it all day. When I was her age, there wasn’t much on TV that I would be interested in (because most of the shows were for older demographics). My mom always kicked me out of the house to play outside but I always preferred playing inside with toys, or building things out of whatever materials I had, taking things apart, or experimenting with things. My daughter seems to do very little of self-motivated investigations into things. If TV isn’t on, she is bored. And, whatever little drive/curiosity she has for learning about the material world would be distracted by the presence of TV. It’s like a kid saying, “Why bother trying to add these numbers myself when I can just punch in the numbers in this calculator and get the answer?” My sense is that there is an optimal timing for introducing certain tools. Otherwise, the kids learn to care only about the result, not the process. If you do not understand the process, your ability to creatively solve problems would be severely limited. A simplistic example would be: “Why bother learning how to ride a bicycle when I can just hail a cab?” Riding a bicycle isn’t just about how to get from point A to B, but to learn how to balance your own weight, control movement, physically understand the laws of physics, etc.. What you learn from it has a use far beyond just riding a bicycle.

Caring only about the result, not the process, is a very common symptom today even in adults. Many Americans don’t care about the process of making money; they just want a lot of money. It makes no difference to them whether they start their own bakery or just marry someone rich. It’s just about the result. They take whatever is the easiest path they can take to achieve the results they desire. I think much of this is due to their inability to comprehend the process because they didn’t bother paying much attention to the process of things when they were young. And, this attitude, I think, is exacerbated by the fact that there are so many tools available now to skip the comprehension of process. You can get wildly fun entertainment by just switching on the TV; why bother trying to learn how to achieve that sort of fun on your own?