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Watching Television Is Relaxing

Watching television relaxes you. The almost undetectable screen flicker is a perfect

mechanism for lowering our brain waves into the alpha state, the condition we are

going for when we meditate. This is why it is so effective for calming an agitated or

over-stimulated kid. It is so effective that even those who watch very little TV, and

are therefore "unconditioned," are put into that state in 3 minutes or less. It's why

so many parents, over decades now, have used "TV time" as a euphemism for

"peace and quiet."

But as we all know, there's a price to pay for this shortcut to deep relaxation, just

as there is with every shortcut ever devised. We all already know about the

opportunity cost of watching TV, all that time spent sitting indoors instead of being

outside getting exercise, which has led in an almost straight line to an epidemic of

obesity and diabetes. And most of us are pretty attuned to the fact that advertisers

are using the highest powered persuasive techniques ever devised to brainwash our

children, and take measures to counteract that. But I"m surprised at how many

parents are dismissive about what TV does to our brains.

When people watch more than a half hour or so of television at a stretch, they go

beyond the meditative state and fall into what is popularly called a stupor. The

longer they watch, the deeper the stupor. When the set is finally shut off, they are

hung over. It's a real hang over, not a figurative one, not a metaphorical one, but

one every bit as real as the kind one gets from drinking too much alcohol. We've all

experienced how surly and out-of-sorts children are after a marathon of TV -- that's

the hang over.

In college (30+ years ago) we were already talking in our journalism classes about

the narcotizing effects of television. It's a real thing. I'm not saying that you should

keep your child away from TV, but you need to know, it's no different than putting

them on drugs. It's an effective, but not a harmless way to buy yourself a little

peace and quiet.

So what exactly does happen to our children's brains as they watch TV?

For one thing, from almost the moment the pictures start to flicker, brain activity

shifts from the left side of our brains (the part of our brains responsible for logical

analysis and critical thought) to the right side. This means that there is little or no

critical analysis taking place, opening their brains to a suggestible, hypnotic state.

When we say that watching television it's a "passive activity," it is true in a very real

sense: scientists detect almost no beta waves at all in TV viewers, indicated no

active involvement in or response to what we are watching.

TV is a physical addiction. It causes the brain to release those feel-good chemicals

called endorphins, morphine like substances created from within the body, and like

all opiates, endorphins are highly addictive.

When you watch television your higher brain regions (like the mid-brain and the

neo-cortex) simply shut down, leaving you with what is sometimes referred to as

the reptilian brain. Studies show that over use of this fight-or-flight part of our

brain leads to atrophy of the parts of our brain used for higher functions making us,

to use the technical term, stupider.

Our brains, like our muscles, need to be "exercised" in order to remain healthy. The

more one watches TV, the less exercise our brains get. Just as lack of physical

exercise is known to lead to countless health issues as we get older, lack of mental

exercise has been linked to an increased likelihood of being diagnosed with ADHD

and other attention disorders, as well as dementia and Alzheimer’s later in life. (Not

to mention the physical risks of heart disease, stroke, and cancer that result from

too much sedentary time in front of the boob tube.)

And like with the use of drugs and alcohol, this narcotic of television is particularly

dangerous when consumed by children given that their brains are not fully


I know, what a bummer on a summer Saturday, but you know what? It's summer!

It's Saturday! Get outside and play! Studies also show that children who play

outdoors laugh 20 times more than their indoor, TV watching counterparts, and

that's got to be better than quiet time.

Hobson, T. (2011, July 9). Watching Television is Relaxing. Teacher Tom.


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