Jamaica Gleaner Online TODAY'S ISSUE
Nov 16, 1999

TV warps children's sense of reality, restricts social skills

Dr. Roger Desmond, interim director of the School of Communication, University of Hartford, Connecticut (standing), illustrates his presentation on media literacy with a video which captures the attention of participants at yesterday's Media Literacy Workshop. Among the participants were Dr. Guillermo Troya, acting PAHO/WHO representative in Jamaica (first left) and Minister Without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, Senator Maxine Henry-Wilson (second left). - Junior Dowie

POOR READING ability and more aggressive behaviour are two tendencies often attributed to overexposure to television among young children, but a United States-based communications expert has suggested that such children may also suffer from underdevelopment of some basic social skills.

Dr. Roger Desmond, interim director of the School of Communication at the University of Hartford, Connecticut, said studies in the US have demonstrated that children who spend too much time in front of television or video-game screens become less patient, less settled, less able to concentrate and less able to appreciate the concept of delayed gratification.

Dr. Desmond was speaking at the opening of a two-day media literacy workshop yesterday at the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI) on the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI).

He said certain behaviour trends in children, including violent and aggressive acts often copied from films or video-games, were linked to the fact that children were being exposed to more violence on television and through electronic games. He also noted that a child who watches too much television is likely to become a less capable reader as television eats into time that would normally be spent doing homework or reading a book.

However, Dr. Desmond also highlighted the fact that the media can have negative effects on the development of the child's social skills. He said the more television a child watched, the less he or she understood as excessive exposure to screen exploits made the child less able to distinguish between what was possible and impossible in real life.

Children whose parents limit the amount of time spent around the television set develop more patience and an increased willingness to wait, he said.

He said too that children who watch too much television are more impulsive and less able to concentrate than those who watch less television. He said this restlessness and short concentration span can have a negative effect on learning, most of which involves sitting quietly and paying attention.

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