What to do? Turn off the TV! That's it.

(Or at least watch less.)

Not sure what to do instead ? see Reading For Pleasure 

and What To Do Instead

If you want to do more:

- Educate yourself further, you can start with our Websites link, and Reading List link.

- Encourage friends and family (especially your kids) to stop watching or watch less.

- If you have access to an EEG machine, try the experiment yourself and email or comment the results. See Brainwaves & TV

- Encourage your school district to adopt programs such as Stanford Student Media Awareness to Reduce Television (SMART) curriculum is being used in California and Michigan. SMART in San Francisco,  SMART in Canada

- Join an Anti-TV organization such as White Dot 

Join our White Dot Forum 

- Help Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood organize a Screen Free Week 

- Support Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood.  Although this is not an Anti-TV organization (they support limited viewing), they have been the only group to forcefully come out against TV/video for babies and won. Congratulations CCFC !  Plus CCFC now organizes the yearly Screen-Free Week.

- If you have a website or blog

link to   www.tvSmarter.com

- Support bills to fund research on the effects of television on society and individuals.

- In an encouraging development, the Children and Media Research Advancement (CAMRA) Act was passed by Senate September 13, 2006.

- Email me (or put in the comment section) any suggestions you have on how I can improve tvSmarter.com. Also, if you notice any broken links, please let me know.

- Email me (or put in the comment section) more links to published studies on the effects of TV and/or reading on brain waves.

- Email me (or put in the comment section) more links to any relevant news and/or websites.

- If you enjoy working with Wikipedia then help add info to the "Alleged dangers" section.

- This excellent Wikipedia page: Television addiction was added July 2006.

The Third-Person Effect

This Under-the-Radar (pdf) article makes a very good point that while people will recognize that the media can have large effects on others, they tend to discount it's effects on themselves.  This is called the third-person effect.   This effect helps to explain, I think, the public's blaze attitude towards television.

Advertising and Free Will

"What they found, in study after study, was that participants thought others would be influenced by the message, but that they themselves would remain unaffected. When psychologists looked at the results, though, it was clear that participants were just as influenced as other people. This was dubbed the 'third-person effect'." - PsyBlog (August 2010)

"Why Do People Deny Violent Media Effects?" - Psychology Today (Feb 2013)

What Government Can Do

I don't believe TV should be banned, but there are similarities between TV and cigarettes.

For years cigarette smoking was considered a harmless habit.  Then research came out showing that it wasn't so harmless.  The cigarette industry denied the research, attacked the research, did research showing that smoking was perfectly healthy.  It wasn't for another decade, until the amount of research was overwhelming that the government came out and did a public health campaign against smoking.

Once people found out that cigarette smoking was not harmless (from an authoritative source), they stopped smoking.  The smoking rate now is much lower than it was thirty years ago, thanks to public anti-smoking campaigns.

Because of the effects of TV on obesity (and associated health effects), depression, violence, etc. government needs to be involved (if for no other reason than to reduce medical costs, law enforcement costs, educational costs, etc).

There has been a ton of research on the effects of violence on TV. Unfortunately not as much on the effects of TV the medium irrespective of content.  Once this research is done, the results will be so overwhelming that it will be common sense to have an extensive public anti-TV campaign.

Obesity seems like a similarly intractable problem.  In Finland, the government launched an enormously successful public education campaign which reduced the obesity rate from 44% to 11%.

"Citing a January study, the Department of Public Health said that 70 percent of adults in the CNMI are either overweight or obese, which puts it near the top of countries with a high rate of obesity. This alarming situation has prompted the department to launch a program called “Off the TV” that seeks to get people into a more active and healthful lifestyle." - Saipan Tribune (May 2007)

"Childhood exposure to TV and video games should be viewed as a major public health issue and, like cigarettes, these media should come with a health warning. So argue researchers writing in a special issue of the journal Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine." - New Scientist (April 2006)  

Media Fighting Back

Why Newsweek is Bad for Kids

Scientific Facts Versus Media Manipulation (pdf)

Media Literacy

But what about media literacy? Watching TV with your child, explaining the ways that TV manipulates, explaining that TV and reality are very different.  The reason the TV industry loves media literacy is that it gives people an excuse to not turn off the TV.  It even encourages teachers to bring TV into the classroom (or assign a show as homework) so that it can be analyzed.

But even as you are encouraged to watch in a cynically critical manner, your brains will still go into slow beta mode and stay there until the TV is turned off.  And while the TV is on, you and your child won't be having a conversation, making dinner, going outside, playing, reading, etc... all they things that make life worthwhile.

Because of the problem of underage drinking, beer companies were encouraged to make TV commercials discouraging teenagers from drinking.  I saw one of these commercials, it consisted of very hip looking teenagers drinking in a cool bar.  Finally the hip bartender kicked them out.  Out on the street, they all gathered around their friend who was throwing up.  So basically this beer company got a free pass to advertise to teenagers. Here's an even better example, an "anti-smoking" ad  that resulted in more teenagers smoking, according to a study looking at reverse-psychology.

As far as I am concerned, media literacy is just a free pass for the TV industry.  It is a chance for the TV industry to give financial support to very sincere people, who then encourage everyone to watch TV. 

(For example Cable in the Classroom promoting "media literacy".)

It's not the message, it's the medium.  Media Literacy advocates have done a very good job of convincing the public that the trouble with TV is the content.  That if only sex and violence could be reduced, that TV would be a wonderful source of education and entertainment.  Conveniently that puts the onus on the powers-that-be. 

Luckily we, as individuals, have the power to ban TV from our lives.

"This viewpoint exemplifies early theories of consumer development—first proposed by Ward, Wackman and Wartella in the 1970’s—when companies first started to target advertising to children. These theories posit that once children understand the persuasive intent of advertising they possess a “cognitive filter” to protect them from unwanted influence.

This belief that children can be “inoculated” against the effects of advertising is the basis for teaching media literacy in schools. No one would argue that teaching children that advertising sometimes tries to exploit and even lie to consumers would be a bad thing. Except for one thing—there is no evidence that understanding the motives behind food advertising actually reduces its effects on children’s food preferences.

Many researchers have tried to show that media literacy training can teach children to resist advertising for unhealthy foods. These studies do show that media literacy can increase children’s skepticism about food advertising. However, recent research also shows that greater skepticism does not reduce the effectiveness of food advertising. " - Psychology Today (Feb 2014)

"Does Media Education Work?" - Association for Media Literacy (Feb 2013)

"It seems peculiar, therefore, that Dove would offer a film demonstrating the ubiquitous attack of the beauty industry that ends with the suggestion to parents that they are the ones to make a difference by simply talking to their kids. If the industry is the problem, it strikes me as odd that the parents are supposed to be the solution. “Peculiar?” “Odd?” Maybe the word “suspicious” is a better fit. Telling parents to talk to their children is not unusual as a public relationsPhilip Morris Talk to your Kids; They’ll Listen strategy. For instance, Philip Morris, among other companies, has long been pushing that message in its “public service” ads, particularly since the industry began to face a real threat of tort liability in the 1990s. The message seems public-spirited, but most industry analysts believe that Philip Morris is delivering, not a public-service message to parents, but a responsibility-shifting message to the public: kids smoke because of uninvolved or irresponsible parents, not because of anything that Philip Morris has done." - The Situationist (Oct 2007)

Using Irony to Sell

Boxed In: The Culture of TV (1988)


Interview with Boxed In Author Mark Cristin Miller

"There was a magazine in 1934 launched, it was called Bunk... its main purpose, the raison d'Ítre was to make fun of advertising, and all it was, was a series of parody ads, ya know. Now. Inside of two years, Bunk had become a premier advertising vehicle, you see? In other words, the advertiser had himself learned how to knock the product. The advertiser had learned to dispense with a kind of reference, solemnity, that had characterized a lot of advertising up to the '20s. Now a kind of jeering skepticism seemed to be called for. That was a very important lesson. One of the things I want to demonstrate in Boxed In is the ways in which both our political leaders and our mass advertisers have managed to use television to put across the same kind of calculated derision as a way to make people think that they see through things and to flatter the people for apparently seeing through things, but the point is that that penetration is only superficial, and doesn't really constitute a seeing-through."

Product placement in the DVR era

I believe this is the conceit of Media Literacy, that if you are smart, sophisticated and well-informed you won't get suckered. Instead, unlike the gullible public, you'll be savvy enough to see through any media manipulations.

Recommended Websites

Bowling Alone 

Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood

Ellen Currey Wilson – The Big Turnoff 

Herber Valley Unplugged

I’m Missing All Of My Shows 

Instead of TV 

Kill Your Television 

Media by Choice

Media Violence Resource Center

People Unplugged

Plato's Cave

Play Unplugged

Screen Free Project

Screen Free Week

Television vs Children 

The New Citizen

Trash Your TV

Turn Off That TV

TV Smarter - Blog 

TV Stinks 

Unplug Your Kids 

White Dot 

White Dot – Forum 

Recommended Articles

"Television Addiction Is No Mere Metaphor"

University of Otago research - TV and Academic Achievement

University of Otago research - TV and Crime

Unplug Your Brain - by Jerry Mander

Why Turnoff Completely

The Dangers of TV

TV Promoting Guns

Television and Children (University of Michigan)

Strangers in Our Homes: TV and Our Children's Minds

Excerpted from Endangered Minds - Kids' Brains Must Be Different

How Background TV Undermines Well-Being

Electronic Screen Syndrome and the rise of mental disorders in children

1000 studies over 30 years

selling audiences to advertisers

How TV Teaches Stupidity

8 Changes I Experienced After Giving Up TV

Top 5 reasons NOT to watch TV this Fall

Spudding Out

Why TV Undermines Academics & Values

Newsweek is Bad for Kids

Bowling Alone - The Strange Disappearance of Civic America

TV Legitimizing Torture

The Assault on Reason

Twilight of the Books

Evolution Of Despair

Alzheimer's & TV

Preventing Obesity

Trained to Kill

Mind-altering media

Effects of TV - Before & After

A Powerful, Massive Protest: Diminish the Corporate Media's Power by Turning off Your TV for Good!

5 Ways Parents May Be Sabotaging Their Kids’ Health

Food companies manipulate kids and parents to create lifelong loyal customers

Is an overlooked source of childhood obesity staring us in the face?

Eight Reasons Why TV is Evil

"What most surprised me were the results I got from my study, which found that the more kids are exposed to consumer culture, they likelier they are to become depressed, suffer from anxiety, or experience low self-esteem. I would have thought it was the other way around — that consumer culture was the symptom, not the cause."

TV Limiting Technology

List & Comparison of TV blockers

Token Timer

Power Cop

Play Limit

Power Plug Lock

Time Machine

Eye Timer

TV Be Gone

TV Be Gone - Article

Stanford Student Media Awareness to Reduce Television (SMART) curriculum is being used in California and Michigan. SMART in San Francisco, SMART in Canada