There have been a number of studies done on how television affects us. It’s even broken down into age ranges. Children 0-3 can have learning difficulties from too much television. Violence and other negative behaviors have been tied to watching “too much TV,” and we are all being subtly encouraged to overeat from some of the ads. That’s a lot of affect, but there’s something else going on.
Opting out: I know of some young families that are opting out of television as we know it. They have a television set, but it is used more like a large monitor rather than a means for the cable company to send television shows. They play computer games on it. They show their children educational material on it…but they don’t watch television, in part because of the studies mentioned above.
Roku: This can be like television in some ways. There are live programs, complete with commercials. It’s just not television the way we would normally think of it. It requires a box but it is internet based. Users subscribe to the channels they want to watch. Some are free and others charge a fee. It’s a lot easier for parents to control what their children watch when they can hand pick the stations. It makes it easier for the effects to be positive for our children instead of negative.
Netflix: This is totally internet based. It is an app, and it can be played on internet ready television sets, computers and other devices. It has movies and television shows. In fact, you can watch an entire series of television shows from season one to the last one available. It’s still not television as we know it. In fact, the cable company can’t give it to you, you have to have an internet account to watch it.
With this, television is changed completely. No more frustration from missing crucial episodes. No more commercials distracting us or making us want to order pizza. The only downside is that it doesn’t have very good parental controls.
DVRs: You might think that television and its effects on us are still there with a DVR, and in a way you’d be right. It does record shows available by most cable outlets via their cable box and…a computer hard drive. In fact, you can actually use your computer for the DVR. It changes how we watch television. When we watch prime time shows during the day, we’re less likely to give in to the commercials we fast forward through.
I discussed a recent round of research I did on children and violence on television and received an observation that I had never thought of. The research shows that by the time children reach the age of 18 they will have seen 200,000 acts of violence. The person I was speaking with cocked his head to one side and said, “I find that television doesn’t have that much effect on me anymore. The internet does.” I think he’s right. The next question is, how will the internet affect us?