“Recreational Junk Food”

By , February 13, 2008 3:44 pm

CJ of Resources 4 Home-Education (a great blog by the way with lots of links to educational resources!) left me a comment today with a very interesting link. The link is to a Reuters article entitled: Psychologist Warns of Educational Television Myth. Thank you CJ!

Psychologist Dr. Aric Sigman, author of Remotely Controlled: How Television is Damaging Our Lives is waging a battle against so-called educational television for children, what he calls “recreational junk food.” According to Dr. Sigman, the brains of young children who are exposed to screen time (be it TV, computers or DVD/video) are physically developing in a less healthy way despite any actual learning that might occur as a result of this screen exposure.

He says: “There is a definite inverse relationship between time spent watching any kind of television or screen when you are young and your ability to read and concentrate when you are older.”

He believes that the sensory complexity of TV, video and computer games (rapidly changing images, colors, noises, etc.) is having a detrimental effect on the wiring of the child’s brain and is producing children with shorter attention spans. This claim is backed up by a study that I wrote about here: Children’s Behavioral Problems Linked to TV.

Dr. Sigman also says:

Studies of brain activity have shown that a child doing simple mental arithmetic with coloured counters or beans has greater blood flow to the brain than one engaged what may look like a far more complex computer game… It may well be that your child learns from the TV that a certain country is in Africa, but that may well also come at the cost of doing something to their attention span…(w)hereas if a parent is talking to their children about geography or nature, they can learn without that risk and will physically exercise their brains in the process.

Do Dr. Sigman’s kids watch TV? “My children have candy sometimes, and television is just like candy, it’s recreational junk food…(b)ut it’s a complete myth that children somehow inherently need TV — otherwise they would be born with a television built into their stomachs, just like the Tellytubbies”.

Yet again, the old adage “all things in moderation” seems to be good advice!

5 Responses to ““Recreational Junk Food””

  1. Jenny says:

    I love the analogy of TV to candy- how perfect. A little every now and again isn’t going to hurt, but too much is no good. Thanks for bringing the article to my attention, and also CJ’s blog- it looks like a good one!

  2. Tamara says:

    Very interesting. One issue I am wondering about now is my sons desire to use the computer. He does not play games though, he types and draws. So you don’t have the same issues with “rapidly changing images.”

  3. calicobebop says:

    This is good stuff! TV as candy! That’s pretty much how it works around here. Good to know I’m not a complete tyrant! :)

  4. CJ says:


    Glad the article came in useful. :-)

    I too, loved the comment about the moderate use of candy to the use of TV It’s the one thought that really sticks in my mind.

    A couple of years back, one of the UK, TV channels had an experiment where the family went back to living in the era of WWII. It was more to do with rationing etc, but one thing that struck me, was how the chldren, initiallt moaned about not having TV, and video games, but soon learnt to play with the very simple toys they were given.

    The mother of the boys acknowleged that the boys imagination took off, and it was rather lovely seeing them play in the back garden, just enjoying being children.

    Of course as soon as the experiment was over the boys immediately went back to TV etc.

    Thank you too, for your comments on my blog, and for your kind words about it here.

    CJ x

  5. Diane says:

    You said: “Yet again, the old adage “all things in moderation” seems to be good advice!”

    I totally agree! Very interesting study- thanks for the link.

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