Teenagers becoming couch potatoes
Television, one of the latest inventions of science has made a major
revolution in the field of communication. Indeed, it has made its
contribution in no small way of making our world a real "Global
Undoubtedly, it has the capacity of bringing all types of happenings
and events such as accidents, meetings of world leaders, staging of
sports galas, building of huge constructions, visiting the under water
gardens of the seas, struggling of the underprivileged, starving of
beggars clashing deadly confrontations in the battle fields, dropping of
bombs and what not which occur around different parts of the world to
our sitting rooms.
For an instance, and exciting cricket encounter that is being staged
in a far off country like Australia can instantly reach every nook and
cranny of Sri Lanka or for that matter any length and breadth of the
world. So it is crystal clear that millions and millions of people
across the globe come under the influence of this powerful mass medium
which brings the facts and information along with beautiful and
impressive pictures thus making them an indelible memory in the minds of
Therefore, it is obvious that television becomes an ideal apparatus
through which we get ourselves updated, entertained and on top of all
educated to keep pace with this fast moving world.
Like all other devices such as the Radio and telephone, TV has its
own merits and demerits. It does its primary tasks of the provision of
news besides acting as a medium of entertainment.
What about its role as an educator? A bigger portion of the
population of world gets an informal education through television.
Especially it is a boon for the illiterate. Besides this, for students
it provides special lessons with vivid illustrations to master their
Consequently, a large number of them get through their examinations
with flying colours. One can easily count hundreds of advantages it
gives to the society. But what about the other side of the coin? Our
topic for this month touches upon a burning issue which needs the
immediate attention of the parents and the society itself.
Today violence has grown its ugly head not only in this isle but also
all over the world. People in hundreds get butchered like dogs in many
parts of the world everyday. Terrorists go on a killing spree targeting
soldiers and civilians alike.
Human relationship has gone to the dogs. Children fail to respect
parents and elders. Western culture threatens to replace our own
culture. Gun has become fun! Hasn't television contributed its part for
this sad state of affairs in the society today? If a "No" is given as
the answer isn't it like hiding the whole melon in the plate of rice! In
fact TV has a number of ill-effects that cause confusion, disturbance,
harm, irresponsibility, unrest and the like.
First and foremost, a large number of children, students and
teenagers have become slaves to television. They watch TV for hours and
hours forgetting their other duties and responsibilities. Indeed, many
of them never touch their textbooks as programmes such as cartoons,
teledramas, cricket matches, films and so on keep them busily engaged.
Thus home work becomes a class work for them. As a result, pace of
learning gets slower in the class room. Many students get the wrath of
teachers instead of the usual greetings when they enter the class rooms
or start a new lesson.
"Reading, they say maketh a full man". Have most of our children
found time to abide by this habit? Hasn't television stolen away a fair
amount of time of our students which is intended for this noble habit?
So it is obvious children who fail to adhere to the rules and routines
of schools get dropped out of schools becoming a burden to the parents,
society and the country itself. They can easily become anti social
Therefore it is better to completely control the viewing of the
younger generation, especially that of the kids and children. It is also
noticed that a vast number of youngsters watch many bad programmes for
When parents ask them to go on an errand or do their other duties
they simply become immovable. Are such couch potatoes useful to this
country which struggles to elevate herself to be with the developed
nations? It is sad to witness that a considerable number of parents
watch movies upon movies in some slums and shanties in many cities such
Many of them who are illiterate think that TV is a blessing that
paves the way for a perfect life. Children in such families show no
respect to elders or obey their parents and others. This can be the
first step towards violence.
So parents should make it a point to stop this nonsense or discourage
them from watching it. Ideally controlling of viewing can help bring
about effective results in the society.
Secondly, a large number of viewers develop many negative traits and
habits such as selfishness, laziness, disobedience and impatience when
they get addicted to television. It is also a source of trouble in terms
of health since it can affect the eye sight of the users of it. Many
have to go for treatment.
They spend their precious time and money due to television. Many
viewers are compelled to wear glasses due to excessive viewing. A slice
of the population of television viewers get some unwanted diseases such
as stomach ulcer, acid and other complications as they skip their meals
or take them later.
Gastric ulcer is a typical disease that catches people who fail to
take their meals in time. Can our children and youths be allowed to be
afflicted with these modern day diseases. So, saying a no to television
can help them be away from this inviting troubles.
One more harmful effect that the Nation has witnessed is the slow
departure of hospitality of our society. Today when a visitor comes at
our doorstep many fail to give a warm welcome to him or her.
They receive him or her half heatedly and focus their attention on
the programme. Needless to say a offering a cup of tea is expected as
they are conscious that it will sting the wallet unprecedentedly. So
steps should be taken by parents to keep the image of Sri Lanka intact.
The greatest danger that TV causes to any nation is the showing of
gun culture. Youth who are addicted to such programmes can become bad
elements due to the influence of them. Many youths who have never
carried arms today get into gun culture as they want to get easy money
as shown in the programmes they view on this idiot box.
Sri Lanka which is famous all over the world for her traditions and
values should not lose its good name for television. Who can help our
nation hold her prestige? Really it is the parents who should keep the
remote control to implement the censorship at home. As charity begins at
home every family should plan the viewing of television to build a
better Sri Lanka where we can lead a violent free life.
Sri Lanka which enjoys democracy has given as a lot of channels.
There are over ten TV net works that give us news. All this
organisations should be fair and balanced in their telecast.
They should plan programmes which uphold the values such as honesty,
truthfulness, patience, obedience, patriotism and so on. As Sri Lanka is
bleeding for peace let us have programmes which will help immediately
build peace in Sri Lanka.
Finding options for constructive programmes
Television programming is a science and an art but in Sri Lanka
locally produced programmes do not seem to live up to that expectation.
It is because a big idea or a real television show does not exist. Some
might say it is not true and if that was the scenario none of the
television programmes could have any viewership.
The fact is that unfortunately television viewing Sri Lankan public
have no choice but to watch programmes produced of mediocre quality,
dished in with cheap thrills and plenty of violence. As is the case in
all the countries in Sri Lanka television impacts children's lives
positively and negatively.
In Sri Lanka there is a low level of interest in reporting on
children's issues and significant inadequacies in the existing
television coverage. As evident in the televisions role of helping to
realize the potential of children and for social change are not
acknowledged or adequately supported in Sri Lanka.
The central and demanding task of any television channel is to
surprise the viewer. Television programming as a profession largely
exists to surprise. Something that attracts the attention of a person
who doesn't care much about anything requires some professional skill in
its presentation such as crime and violence.
Courage and commitment
More seriously the liberating surprise of uncovering what too many
people want hidden, such as crime and violence is potentially a moment
of real moral change and needs some quite substantial resources to make
it happen. The personal courage and commitment of certain television
personnel in the service of such moral change and vision is
A television reporter may want to pursue surprise because he or she
assumes that where most adults and children start is from boredom taking
the option of a channel and so the surprise has to be at some level
entertaining be it violence, crime or sex.
Or they many start from the assumption that the real problem is not
boredom but the fact that certain television channels have decided whats
good for us to know such as crime and violence information and
Perhaps they may be satisfied that we should be alternately bored and
entertained. What needs to be challenged is such people's right to
decide on crime, sex and violence over others.
There are many television establishments operating in Sri Lanka and
one element that props up this competition is the advertising through
programmes of crime and violence. This manipulates peoples minds. Apart
from the rare advertisements that carry strong social messages most
advertisements promote the consumerist thinking.
Children are used for advertising merchandise from ice cream to life
insurance policies. In between there are the programmes of action,
thrills and violence where undoubtedly young people will begin to watch
such television programmes.
Advertisers in general lack sensitivity whether their target audience
are children or adults inserting their advertisement segments into
programmes containing violence and crime.
The concern is on children more than adults as to how advertising
affects them. Advertisements speaking for children should be telecasted
more. Advertisements for children should not be shown in between
programmes containing violence and crime.
Advertisements using children must be made under vital stringent
regulations. In a market where the advertisement pie is small the costs
of managing a television station islandwide is huge and then investing a
good amount of money in local productions does not seem to be a viable
What we see as a result of this is foreign shows and films full of
crime and violence dubbed in the Sinhala langauge. In the age where
technology of telecasting and production has improved to the point that
programmes can be produced very much cheaply and largely relies on the
creativeness and ingenuity of the producer to produce a programme in a
cost effective manner and also presenting many options to viewers with
alternative channels not containing violence and crime.
Such programmes could be made with a larger budget for something like
a specialist set or special effects and if so telecasters should give
all the encouragement to such producers.
At the end of the day television is a creative medium. Surely
anything that limits creativity cannot be a good thing. One of the most
powerful defences the media can offer for controversial actions such as
telecasting excessive programmes of violence is of course the high
Guide children to avoid violence on TV
Over a period of nearly three decades the TV, one strong item in the
mass media has reached every nook and corner of this island. It is no
more a luxury, but is an essential requirement in almost all homes.
Even in areas where electricity is not yet provided, people use
battery operated TVs. At a time when there is a knowledge explosion, TV
is one of the sources for disseminating that knowledge the world over.
Then a TV is a must not only in educational institutions and other
important places but also is an essential requirement in every
Further in places such as hotels, restaurants and even in wayside
tea-kiosks a TV is always available, for one can see how during the
cricket season passers by gather in front of small boutiques to view the
matches on TV.
In spite of the fact that new knowledge and hot-hot information can
be reached today through other sources such as internet and e-mail, the
common man whether educated or not has to depend on the TV to get
So one has to accept the fact that violence or not, the TV cannot be
excluded from one's daily life. Invariably then the liability for the
little ones to be exposed to "on screen violence", is on the increase.
That's due to certain TV programmes telecasting cartoons, dramas and
serials depicting horror, murder, day-light robberies displaying the
very use of dangerous weapons.
TV does offer children good programmes too. For educating a child in
modern times, textbook knowledge and the teacher's instructions are not
at all sufficient. Not only in developed countries, but also in
developing countries, mostly in South Asia, Africa and Latin America,
new technology is being used as far as possible.
Overhead projectors, audio cassette recorders, TV sets, computers and
so on are modes available in schools and other educational institutions.
Within the classroom a child is no more a passive listener. He or she is
an active participant in the teaching - learning process.
A classroom without audio-visual equipment neither could motivate a
child to learn, no could help a child keep in memory what is learnt.
Long-term memory is made possible not by mere words that a child learns,
but real life experiences. Pictorial depictions and motion pictures are
more conducive. In Sri Lanka mostly a readily available audio-visual
equipment no doubt is a TV set.
The school can organise to make children view important educational
programmes during the school time as and when necessary. While spending
a child's leisure time at home too the child can view selected
programmes on TV.
Of course the parents and the elders are responsible to get their
children view beneficial TV programmes. There are well planned and
educationally rich programmes which are beneficial to children and
Do children find violence only on TV?
Today in many parts of the world including Sri Lanka there is a trend
of growing violence. At times the law of the jungle prevails. The
stronger and the more powerful destroying the weaker and the more
innocent is the order of the day.
So there is an argument whether it is TV only that displays violence.
Children have to be safeguarded from TV violence as well as events and
scenes of real violence taking place. In the Sri Lankan context, this is
a country where two social upheavals had taken place.
People in this country who thought twice before killing a mosquito or
a house rat took to arms killing others in broad daylight. Dead bodies
were strewn all over. Well, those are inevitable happenings during times
At present also in Sri Lanka numerous violent deeds are taking place.
Abusing of women and children, kidnappings and robing others' property
at gun point are some of these violent happenings.
The daily and weekly papers in addition to the TV channels flash
these very often with pictures of such gruesome events. Thus children
are receiving such information through printed media as well as the TV.
On top of such happenings the atrocious inhuman deeds resulting from
the civil war based on the National Issue has given rise to untold
misery to the people of this island.
The little ones growing up in such fearful environments do experience
violence unheard of. Such atrocities mostly take place in certain areas
and not islandwide. Yet the life in other areas too has grown extremely
So it is a fact that TV violence is not the only factor that affects
the growing children's emotional development. Under disturbed emotional
conditions it is unavoidable that a child gets into one or more of the
mental illnesses such as anxiety, stress, trauma and frustration. Such
situations invariably lead to maladjusted behaviour like disobedience,
day-dreaming, aggression and aloofness.
Children's exposure to violence. How to prevent?
Ways and means to protect children from being subjected to direct
violence, experiencing violent events or viewing TV violence should
receive the attention of several sections of the society.
Preventing violence from war or civil strife is beyond the control of
ordinary public. However, the security forces and vigilant committees
being established presently can help to a certain extent. Above all the
parents of the children should take measures to safeguard their
As far as the TV violence is concerned, a grater responsibility rests
on teachers, parents and elders on the one hand and religious
institutions on the other. It may be that some parents are not mindful
about what their children view on TV. Those who are more aware do select
the programmes for their children to observe and wean them from violent
The teachers on the whole are able to influence both parents and
children. The teachers therefore, when they meet parents once a month or
otherwise can draw the parents' attention to prevent their children from
observing violent cartoon pictures, serials or teledramas.
The most lasting measures are of course linked with moral education.
A child of five to six years can generally be made aware that there are
good things and bad things. Their attention could be drawn to what is
right and what is wrong. Gradually they can be guided to select good
things and right things. They should be made to discriminate right
action from wrong action, right behaviour from wrong behaviour.
Eventually the child could be taught to shun what is bad or wrong.
In modern times when life is fast going 100% prevention of children
observing violent programmes on TV is not likely to be achieved.
Therefore it is more advisable to teach the child to glean what is
important and worthy of learning and discard what is unworthy.
The younger children of course should be safeguarded specially by
their own parents and elders because due to their mental immaturity they
an be proved more susceptible to violent actions on TV.
Violence on TV:
The Broader Picture
Television invaded Sri Lanka in the 1980s and now it has expanded to
every nook and corner of the country. There is a surfeit of channels on
terrestrial free-to-air television and even more if you have access to
cable or satellite. More channels are being added.
Television dominates our evenings, with most people glued to
teledramas and foreign teleserials.
Today's children literally grow up with television. Children are
instantly attracted to this visual medium. Their growing minds are
susceptible to accumulate everything shown on the telly.
There is a lot of blood on show on television. Local teledramas as
well as foreign series show countless murders, shootings, kidnappings,
explosions etc. There are many who believe that young minds exposed to
such violence on television will turn out to be citizens with unsound
But can anything be done about it in this modern age when even the
news telecasts feature loads of violence ? What are your views on
'Violence on Television: The broader picture'. Do write to us on the
abive topic to Daily News Debate, Daily News, Associated Newspapers of
Ceylon Limited, PO Box 1217, Colombo, or via e-mail to email@example.com
before March 31, 2008. Limit your contributions to a maximum 1,000