The argument about the harm television does to children is back on the agenda.
When people start on about this, I get very uncomfortable, it’s often the precursor to a demand for censorship. Censorship won’t solve the problems they harp on about, because none of the research that tells them content caused this or that behaviour, ever takes into account the act of watching as part of the causal relationship.
I think the act of watching television causes more damage than its content. I am not denying there is some relationship between behaviour and content. We wouldn’t have adverts if television didn’t affect behaviour, but for me it’s the act of watching that has the most significant effect.
If children stare at the screen to the detriment of all other social interactions, it’s no wonder certain damaging behaviours start to manifest themselves. It could be argued that the rampant self-interest of the last thirty years is caused by watching ever more television.
Generations of us have been brought up on an increasingly mailable television services. Multi-platform, interactive, streaming, on demand, have allowed us to bend television to our individual wants. As a result, we relate to the world, the way we relate to television, in very self-centred terms.
We pick and choose what we care about, the way we pick and choose what we watch. If our primary relationship is with the screen, it’s inevitable that we treat our lives thusly. If we don’t like what we’re watching, we change the channel.
The real danger of television is not the content, but the way we interact with it, the way it hypnotises us, keeps us watching.
Think of it in these terms. It is less the sex and violence on television, and more the sex and violence of television that causes harm.