Wednesday, June 18, 2003

On Bhutan and TV

I’m convinced unadulterated TV exerts a way too strong influence on children, who are extremely vulnerable and receptive to everything they take in. For all those who are not convinced of the enormous impact of TV on children (and society), here is a Guardian story of Bhutan and the societal changes which occurred merely three years after the introduction of 46 channels of TV(note: mostly Murdoch programming) to a previously isolated and secluded culture. The result was, unfortunately, too familiar:
    “…April 2002 was a turbulent month for the people of Bhutan. One of the remotest nations in the world, perched high in the snowlines of the Himalayas, suffered a crime wave. The 700,000 inhabitants of a kingdom that calls itself the Land of the Thunder Dragon had never experienced serious law-breaking before. Yet now there were reports from many towns and villages of fraud, violence and even murder…”
Although it is all to easy to blame TV as the source of all woes and while correlation is not necessarily causation, I don’t think that it was just by chance or osmosis that these societal changes are occurring.
This brings up for me the issue of how to mitigate the impact of TV as well as the issues of societal self-responsibility. I wonder what this teaches us about our way of life and the impact of TV/media. I don't know what the answers are. What can we do to teach children how to think about the messages they see on the screen? How can they figure what those messages are?