Billions of people are spending hours in front of the TV. The reality is what the TV is stating it is and we are taking it as true without filtering the information with our minds. We get entertained by TV-shows, movies, reality shows, talk shows, and we are buying stuff we’ve seen commercials about. There is a fact that you have to know: too much tv really is bad for your brain, but especially for children.
How is the TV affecting your brain?
The human brain produces permanent brain waves, which are electrical pulses measured after amplitude and frequency.
Amplitude refers to the power of the electrical pulses, measured in microvolts, while the frequency is measured in hertz and defines the speed of electrical undulations.
In terms of frequency, there are the following categories:
- Beta waves which have the highest frequency (14-30 Hz): appears in brain during thought processes, analysis, and decision-making, mostly awake state, when the mind is concentrated on a task or certain activity
- Alpha waves with a frequency of 7.6-13.9Hz dominate cortical activity when the person is in a state of relaxation
- Theta waves of 5.6-7.6 Hz in frequency appear during sleep or meditative state
- Delta waves of 4-5,6Hz occur in the brain during the deep sleep
Numerous studies have shown that watching television may influence brain activity, and when the TV is on, alpha and delta waves become dominant and the longer you’re watching TV your brain waves are getting lower in frequency.
Watching TV could cause the occurrence of various neurological abnormalities.
The left hemisphere which is responsible for analytical processes has major reduced activity when watching TV.
These show that an increased TV watching time could lead to serious negative consequences on the development of the prefrontal cortex.
Some people think that the TV could be as a way of education, but TV is designed to entertain, rather than to learn.
Virtual vs Real and TV effects on children brains
Many kids are watching cartoons, then they face the reality.
The play hours stopped being fun when they do not distinguish between the reality and the virtual world delivered by the TV.
Kids would love to be like their favorite cartoons heroes, like Spiderman, Ben10, Superman or whoever.
Their young minds come to be dependent on the state of passivity offered by the TV. The left hemisphere of the brain whose activity is inhibited when watching TV, will not develop normally, which will make the young men be deficient in terms of logical and analytical thinking, in speech, in writing and reading, but also in emotional relations with the others.
However, the most serious negative consequences that watching too much TV has, are in the prefrontal cortex, which distinguishes man from animal. This area is a critical center in the brain with purposes in the development processes of consciousness and higher mental processes.
Affecting or even stopping the prefrontal cortex development will lead to motivation weakens and will favor the instinctive behaviors, like aggressiveness and sexual impulses.
These are just some of the reasons that made the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest to state in 1998 that up to two years of age, children should not be allowed to watch too much TV, and after this age, especially for scholars who need to focus on learning American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a maximum of two hours a day of watching TV.
Children and the environment. How TV affects on that?
A child that is watching too much TV will not take part of the common dialogue experience and think stimulation that comes through dialogue that parents, grandparents, and human environment in general offer.
The stimuli perceived visually and auditory from the TV very aggressive and succeed with such a rapidity that exceed the capacity of the child’s brain to control them.
The effect will invariably be to inhibit some important mental processes.
Children get used to watching too much TV and will not have the motivation to try understanding surrounding environment, or what is happening in the world around them.
The TV experience is not a real one in space and time, or in distances and duration, but a virtual one and children lose the possibility of learning by touching and physical manipulation of objects, which is one of the conditions of increasing knowledge, therefore structuring neural connections.
Through television, children are deprived of peace and respite needed to develop internal mechanisms and language of reflexive thinking.
Studies have proven that experiencing the environment by the children plays an essential role in the structural development of the brain, neural connections developing by experience and learning.
The connection between too much TV and the children ability to read
In a study conducted on a group of 500 children between 9 and 10 years, the majority of these children said they would rather watch TV than reading.
This is, in fact, the general situation in all developed societies, where the widespread daily ritual is watching TV.
TV is more challenging, more relaxing, and doesn’t claim any effort from the viewer, and therefore is preferred by the children.
The main mechanisms through which television undermines reading were published in the Reading Research journal:
- television cancel the satisfaction produced by reading, replacing it with pleasure and entertainment
- watching TV requires a way-below mental effort than the one required for reading, thus will make children find reading as a too difficult activity
- TV reduces the time children are spending to find the correct answers to the problems they have to solve, so discourages the development of activities such as reading, because reading requires thinking, patience and tenacity in decoding the meanings
Watching too much TV reduces the intelligence levels
Intelligence or intellectual performance is determined by a good and fast process of communication between both brain’s hemispheres.
Intelligent people are those on whose brain the commissure between hemispheres (Corpus Callosum) is very well developed.
Dr. Jerri Levy, a biopsychologist at the University of Chicago, shows that, for normal brain development, children need those experiences that involve a simultaneous engagement of both hemispheres, to strengthen and enhance these inter-hemispherical connections.
Dr. Levy insists that the children must get the opportunity to experience the environment, and not be deprived first by watching TV.
If watching too much TV, the Corpus Callosum is maturing in the late years of childhood or first years of adolescence, due to the lack of intellectual exercise, and that will make it be highly vulnerable. So, because of watching TV the brain remains relatively passive during childhood and adolescence and it will be more difficult to later develop the normal intellectual abilities.
Too much TV cause chaotic hyperactivity
Watching too much TV leads to a separation between the brain’s natural response and the body’s.
While the child’s mental alertness is at high levels during TV session, the physical reactions are not necessary.
For example, the brain records fast camera moves, lights flashes, sexual acts, or acts of violence presented through the TV, and it is responding to those, both mentally or neurologically, as it would be real. Meanwhile, the tension and energy accumulated can’t be released through physical response, since a physical response is not needed.
Researchers believe that this nervous excitement which was not discharged through a physical response, lead to increased hyperactivity, irritability, and frustration.
Therefore, images from the TV stimulate impulsive move, but physical reactions are suppressed, no being needed, this creating sensory hyperactivity because physical energy is stored in the child’s body. Then, when the TV is shut-down an explosion of energy occurs, and the child starts manifesting in different chaotic ways, like running, screaming, jumping, kicking, or, in some extreme cases the child could have a real nervous crisis of meaningless reason for parents.
Adults and too much TV
Don’t think that only kids are affected. Adults are affected too, but in different ways and too much TV is also altering adults perception on the real world.
As in a child case, the brain of an adult that watches too much TV is affected on the frontal lobe which controls concentration, judgment, inhibition, creativity, planning, and emotional expression.
Also, the emotional center of the brain is affected by too much TV, leading to emotional disturbances and brain responses to what the TV is showing as you’d be in the middle of the events. That’s one reason why media, especially TV, is saturated with violence, sex, and news, movies, or shows with a huge impact on the viewer’s emotions: it sells, by keeping you glued to the screen.
Other effects of too much TV is to reduce motivation and increase laziness. Many adults are spending hours watching TV in place of doing other activities regardless of their importance. It is rather preferred to watch a football match or the news than to clean up the house or spend time with family.
The center in the brain that controls addictions is also affected by the TV. TV creates addiction on different levels:
- favorite show or TV-series addiction: you are scheduling your regular activities by the TV guide
- you want to hear that the TV is on: you think there’s too much silence and you can’t enjoy silence and relaxation because something is missing, the TV to be on
- can’t sleep without TV
And many others, depending on each individual…
A conspiracy theory… Or not!
Another way watching too much TV is affecting your brain is that the TV is not letting you think! You get all information as it is given to you without questioning it or filtering it with your mind.
A conspiracy theory says that the media is controlled by very rich people that have only one purpose: to make money. The only way they can make huge profits is to keep you for hours in the front of the TV and to bomb you with commercials, that will make you buy something, eventually, so this industry is not halting only to media owners profits.
Since the technology evolved, there appeared another mechanism to squeeze you for some money: false involvement.
TV industry is taking advantage of one big psychological weakness we all have: the desire to be involved, to have a word to say, to say our opinion.
You got it! We’re talking here about that kind of shows that asks for viewers opinions or votes.
Talent shows like The X Factor, Britain’s got talent, American Idol and so forth are asking you to say your opinions and to vote for your favorite candidates. Of course, voting is not free so millions of people are voting and millions of US dollars, British pounds or euros go straight into the television network’s bank accounts.
It has been scientifically proven that the frequencies of the brain are affected by the TV frequencies and so the TV is keeping your brain in a low-frequency state, depriving you of thinking much while watching, in fact inducing a somehow vegetative state.
TV is also addictive decreasing your motivation for other activities that would even make you happier.
TV’s most negative effects are on children, whose brain is still developing and too much TV can alter this development and can create very disturbing emotional disorders, lower intellectual capabilities and increase instinctual behaviors like aggressiveness and instinctual sexual desires. TV is offering easy to assimilate information that children are getting effortlessly without thinking, leading to low intellectual exercise and an intelligence decrease.
Reading and learning from books are two activities that seem difficult for children since there is an alternative which doesn’t involve such an intellectual effort: TV.
Limiting your children time spent on watching TV could be a great idea for your children intellectual development and redirecting them to some more creative activities (reading, drawing or even those usual old childhood games) or to a sportive activity would be great for their minds and bodies.
I am a young woman, a mother of two beautiful kids, and I am passionate about reading and writing. I am a flexible writer, with huge experience on topics related to health, babies and kids, lifestyle, fashion, IT&Tech, relationships, and world’s mysteries.
Armed with my articles as weapons against wrongness, I hope to help people living a better and healthier life, and I’ll always be a militant for justice, trying to teach people about what is good and what is wrong.