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why is reading more important than watching tv?

post #1 of 57
Thread Starter 
if a child spent 8 hours reading would you discourage her? during summer vacations.

then why do we throw a fit if they watch tv for 8 hours?

what are we expecting out of our kids from reading?

what is the difference between reading and 'watching' - be it tv or movies.

why is one better than the other.

today we were debating screen time with my almost 8 year old and she asked me these questions.

i am curious to hear what you mama's think - esp. if they already know how to read.

i am not going to purposely say what i think. more curious to see what you guys feel.

i am talking about kids maybe 5 and older. or kids whatever their age who have mastered reading. not talking about toddlers.
post #2 of 57
I'll bite. First of all, I wouldn't want my kid to read for 8 hours in a day. I think kids need to be doing a variety of activities, including running, playing, making up their own pretend games.

Second, there is a large difference, cognitively between reading and watching tv. Reading is actively engaging a person's mind. They have to concentrate on the words to be able to understand the story. They have to visualize the characters, the setting, the action, the voices. TV/movies do all the thinking for you. It is all handed to you. The vision of someone else's creativity. In a book, there is some amount of participation by the reader to interpret the story.

Finally, I think there is a physical difference between reading a book and seeing the moving images on a lit tv. I think that the book is, likely, easier on the eyes.
post #3 of 57
I think it all depends on the material. Would I rather my kid read really bad writing like Twilight or watch something on NatGeo? Reading doesn't always automatically win.
post #4 of 57
Obviously they are different but I will agree that we're always taught reading is better.

My son would read non-stop if allowed. My neighbor had to punish her son by taking his book away and his teacher was appalled. She felt it was always wrong to not let a child read. The mother was just doing what she felt was most productive.

I will say that when we watch Jeopardy as a family, it is not passive at all. We have fun talking and trying to answer questions, etc.

For me, I find that watching comedies is a nice endorphin release for me so while it may not be critical thinking, it can be a stress reliever.

I am also a person who must read before bed to relax and get sleepy. I could never watch TV to fall asleep because it would be too much visual.

And now that you mention it, I mostly listen to TV. I have MST3K episodes playing on my computer while I do housework and listen to it like a radio.

I haven't answered one of your questions, have I? My brain must be soft from too much TV watching.
post #5 of 57
Yeah - I don't know that I'd be that enthused if my kid was reading for 8 hours a day. Mainly b/c that wouldn't leave much time for playing outside, doing artwork, building things, etc. - even during the summer. I would worry about social skills or if my child had something they were trying to escape from, yk? My DD, age 9, loves to read - and will do so often when she has a free moment or two. She also reads before bed and random times throughout the day - but the only time I could see her reading for 8 whole hours in a 24 hour period was if it were a book she couldn't put down and she was super into. This wouldn't be an everyday thing, realistically.

Anyhow, I don't limit screen time with any of my kids - they can play on the computer, watch movies, or TV shows (though, we don't have cable, or even PBS, for that matter). They watch a lot via netflix instant play. But 8 hours a day of TV, does seem excessive to me, and more worrysome than reading would because it doesn't take as much mental energy to stare at a show than it does to actively read and comprehend written words. Obviously, I don't think zoning out and enjoying one's favorite shows are a bad thing (I'm about to watch Teen Mom online in a min ), but there is definitely a big difference in imagination and how the brain is stimulated when comparing TV vs. reading a book.
post #6 of 57
For good, scientific info, read "The Plug-In Drug". It talks about how TV engages very little of the brain, whereas reading lights it up. Also TV mostly affects the pleasure areas of the brain and trigger an "addictive" effect such that over the years, a person will begin to "crave" TV. Obviously, that's not good. I'm sure reading can become "addictive" and if it does, then that's not good either.

I can't remember the details, but there were also studies done that showed that reading increased *something* in the brain (cognition maybe?) and TV decreased it.

Anyway, the negative effects have been shown with TV whereas there have been none shown for reading. The updated version of the book includes video games and computer.
post #7 of 57
Reading engages the brain in was TV doesn't. They are two completely different mental actions (TV watching being mostly mental *inaction* ).

So, reading is better. Though I'm not 100% anti-TV, and think that it can have it's place even in education.

However 8 hours a day of reading? Too sedentary. And I was the kid who *would* read 8 hours a day if allowed. I think an occasional reading binge like that would be fine--for instance on a day when it was just too hot to move outside, or in the winter when the weather is too bad to do anything or go anywhere.

But yes, I would probably discourage 8 hours of sitting down doing *anything* for my kids. But if they are going to spend a lot of time indoors, I'd rather they read (she says, as her kids are watching Pink Panther shorts )
post #8 of 57
I don't want kiddo to be doing any ONE thing for 8 full hours a day... seems excessive!

With that said, assuming everything is kept to moderation, I don't think tv is bad. I want less of it in our home but I don't want to be 100% tv or screen free. I know for ME, I am not a passive watcher. I react to story lines in shows/movies similarly to how I do in books. I'm the type to talk to the characters or go on rants about how something in the show reminds me of something in real life and why it pisses me off. If it is a show with continuity such as House or something, I'll definitely think about past episodes to work on what will happen in the current and if it is a show that just has patterns but not continual story line such as kids shows like arthur, I'll recall past episodes and similarities to figure out what to expect. I talk about this with kiddo too so she can hardly be a passive watcher.

Honestly, the only time I'm not really into the show and thinking about what is going on and recalling past things or things I'm reminded of or yelling at the screen is when I have it on like the radio. Not watching, just background noise.

Maybe I'm weird and a total over thinker, but I have a hard time watching a show and not taking much in or not looking deeper at the metaphors and foreshadowing and such. Although sometimes I can read a book without being able to remember a single thing on the page.
post #9 of 57
The brain responds differently to tv than to reading.

A good question is, "Why do people so often spend 8 hours a day watching tv, when so few are interested in spending 8 hours a day reading." Same answer. The two engage our brains differently.
post #10 of 57
Watching TV = Mindlessly staring at moving pictures on a screen. Rarely does it involve more than that.

Reading = Using your mind to create the story being read in your head.

The difference is, one is more "active" than the other. When you read, you do more than just stare, you are actually using skills and your mind to do something.
post #11 of 57
My mom used to make me stop reading and go outside. I don't know if I read 8 hours a day back then. I'm sure I do now. I'm online a lot and when I'm not I read books.

My son isn't an early reader like I was. He uses his screen time to get little bits of information from PBS shows online. He's very smart about it, but I don't think he gets as much kind of background information from his pursuit of learning whatever they have to teach as I did from reading.

It's a very frontal way of teaching, you know? It's worked well for him when he watches shows about math, and stuff on the science of building things, but when he tries to learn more natural-world topics like nutrition or plants and animals, the frontal presentation is very limited. When you read about something like that for yourself, you can go deeper. Of course the stories on Youtube are not nearly as rich as something you can read in a book, and reading to yourself will always beat anything you can see in a movie or on a screen.

So I guess I would say I've re-evaluated how educational screen time can be. My son has shown that a determined kid can learn a lot from television programs and games--it's just not as effective, deep or efficient as reading for certain kinds of information. I also see that he gets very testy when he has to stop watching the screen. My friend told me her daughter, who is also 7, has trouble doing anything else after she's been watching TV for a little while. She's tired and grumpy but too wired to fall asleep.

Books don't do that to you, usually.
post #12 of 57
I think reading for 8 hours a day is too much too. But, tv is more mindless than reading.

I am not anti tv. I think some shows are great! I love to watch tv myself, but not for 8 hours.
post #13 of 57
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicianDad View Post
Watching TV = Mindlessly staring at moving pictures on a screen. Rarely does it involve more than that.

Reading = Using your mind to create the story being read in your head.

The difference is, one is more "active" than the other. When you read, you do more than just stare, you are actually using skills and your mind to do something.
ok so i had this argument with dd. and i presented this reasoning.

and she differs with me. btw i am only quoting this post coz it captured everything succintly.

dd argues that content is content, whether you watch tv or read a book or google.

recently she has changed. she has become a different child. one of the shows she watches on hulu inspired her to change herself. it actually made her do something.

she is my 'thinker' child and many shows like ninja turtles have brought on 'deep issues'.

so she questions shouldnt the 'judgement call' depend on the person watching and shouldnt content matter?

and i think she has a valid point.

and yeah i dont think too much of anything is good. but we have had a few days of summer with 8 hours of tv and 8 hours of books.

and oh btw 8 hours is because of hulu and she can watch all her episodes and watch the story line for 8 hours. sigh! big anime fan. well maybe not 8 hours but many hours. definitely more than 2.
post #14 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by meemee View Post
and oh btw 8 hours is because of hulu and she can watch all her episodes and watch the story line for 8 hours. sigh! big anime fan. well maybe not 8 hours but many hours. definitely more than 2.

Do you have to pay for HULU? And, does it only have shows that are on tv? (Cuz I want to see LOST without buying season 6)

Total thread drift, I know... but, I can't get HULU to work for me.
post #15 of 57
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by nextcommercial View Post
Do you have to pay for HULU? And, does it only have shows that are on tv? (Cuz I want to see LOST without buying season 6)

Total thread drift, I know... but, I can't get HULU to work for me.
OH NO!!! you poor thing. i dont know how we could LIVE without hulu!!!

its a free site. you DONT pay for it,

HOWEVER... it does have a new pay ($10 a month) service for getting it on different kinds of media.

and hey i just checked real quick. they DONT have season 6 on yet. only excerpts.

carrying on the OT there are a couple of GREAT movies dd and i enjoyed. we have watched them multiple times with friends too. its the anthropologist in us that loved it.

if you can get hulu to work here are the movies
- the great match
- visit to a chief's son
post #16 of 57
Wow, she is a thinker. And no i do not think reading is in every way superior to TV and I think sedentary us sedentary regardless of what you are doing and 8 hours of anything on a regular basis is unhealthy. Comprehending what you read is easier than comprehending what you watch and I think it is an important thing to keep practicing.
post #17 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by meemee View Post
dd argues that content is content, whether you watch tv or read a book or google.
...
and i think she has a valid point.
I agree with her. When studies look at the brain's function during television watching, they are capturing only a very small snapshot that shows what parts of a brain respond to the light stimuli. In reality, quality television and movies can inspire deep critical thinking, which studies don't tend to measure.

That said, I think overall that reading requires more intellectual prowess, which is why I encourage it over television in general. An occasional day spent vegging in front of the TV is fine, imo.

I spend 8+ hours a day reading whenever possible, which isn't much now because of my other commitments. As a child, I definitely preferred reading to any other activity and read hundreds of books over summer break. I can't imagine telling one of my children that wasn't acceptable, particularly since both of them get plenty of physical activity, just as I did.
post #18 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by meemee View Post
ok so i had this argument with dd. and i presented this reasoning.

and she differs with me. btw i am only quoting this post coz it captured everything succintly.

dd argues that content is content, whether you watch tv or read a book or google.

recently she has changed. she has become a different child. one of the shows she watches on hulu inspired her to change herself. it actually made her do something.

she is my 'thinker' child and many shows like ninja turtles have brought on 'deep issues'.

so she questions shouldnt the 'judgement call' depend on the person watching and shouldnt content matter?

and i think she has a valid point.
I wouldsay that the difference is between content and processing. If you watch a TV show then little is left to the imagination - the set, the characters, the costumes, the weather, the accents, the tone of voice, the emphasis - it's all there for you. Whereas, if you read a book, even a descriptive book, you still have to create all those things for yourself. I would argue that even if the words were exactly the same on the TV show or in the book that the book would still be better. Superficially, it may seem like you're getting the same information but the book requires more of your brain.

Physically, one is more active when reading a book also. Apparently we are less active watching TV than we are when sleeping.

Google is an intersting one. I think it is somewhere in the middle but probably a bit closer to TV. I read a study once which showed that Google etc is having a negative effect on our brain functioning because it allows us to exercise our memories less. Remember pre-interweb if you couldn't remember the name of that guy/book/movie/insert random fact here you had to wrack your brain and you'd finally remember it 3 hours later? Well, now we don't have to do that and it's stunting us.

I view TV [no pun intended] in thesame way as I view chocolate biscuits - it's an indulgence. Sometimes I'm sensible, sometimes I overindulge but, either way, I don't kid myself that it's good for me or that I *need* it for any reason.

If my child wanted to watch 8 hours of TV in one day as a special summer treat then I may well let her (as a one off) but I wouldn't consider it a good use of her time just as I don't consider my TV watching a good use of my time.
post #19 of 57
I wrote this blog entry when I was considering whether or not to make DS TV-free (and he is):

I started doing research on the effects of television on children. What I found made me realize my gut instinct to keep Henry far, far away was right on. The Plug-In Drug: Television, Computers, and Family Life by Marie Winn is particularly eye-opening. She asserts that it's not just what a child watches that matters -- it's that they watch at all:

"Parents may overemphasize the importance of content because they assume that their children's television experience is the same as their own. But there's an essential difference between the two: adults have a vast backlog of real-life experiences that colors what they see; children do not. As adults watch television, their own present and past experiences, dreams, and fantasies come into play, transforming the material they see into something reflecting their own particular inner needs. Young children's life experiences are limited. They have barely emerged from the preverbal fog of infancy. It is disquieting to consider that hour after hour of television watching constitutes a primary activity for them. Their subsequent real-life activities will stir memories of television experiences, not, as for adult watchers, the other way around. To a certain extent children's early television experiences will serve to dehumanize, to mechanize, to make less real the realities and relationships they encounter in life. For them, real events will always carry subtle echoes of the television world." (Bold mine.)

She also discusses how television watching displaces human interaction for children, and why this is so noteworthy:

"According to...neuroscientists, among the most important of the environmental factors that might affect neurological development are the language and eye contact an infant is exposed to. Indeed, some researchers say that the number of words an infant hears each day is the single most important predictor of later intelligence, school success and social competence. But there's one catch. As a New York Times science writer concluded, 'The words have to come from an attentive, engaged human being. As far as anyone has been able to determine, radio and television do not work.'" (Bold mine.)

Winn says that television viewing also keeps children from playing, which serves a vital role in their social, emotional, and intellectual development. In the "more complex forms of imaginative play they...find ways to work out difficulties and adjust the realities of life to their inner requirements.... In play they expose, and perhaps exorcise, fears that they cannot articulate in any other way."

She also explores the difference between reading and television viewing, which often displaces reading: "At the same time that children learn to read written words they begin to acquire the rudiments of writing. Thus they come to understand that a word is something they can write themselves. That they wield such power over the very words they are struggling to decipher makes the reading experience a satisfying one right from the start." However, "[a] young child watching television enters a realm of materials completely beyond his or her understanding.... They take on a far more powerless and ignorant role in front of the television set than in front of a book."

Winn addresses television's damaging effects on the growing-up process, too: "There's an evolutionary purpose to [the] behavior progression from parent-centered, passive, receptive orientation to an environment-centered, active, learning style of life: the individual's survival in society is necessarily a function of active, adaptive behavior. It is precisely at this point in a child's development, somewhere between the ages of two and thee, that parents are most likely to begin turning on the television set for their young children. While watching television, young children are once again as safe, secure, and receptive as they were in their mother's arms. They need offer nothing of themselves while watching.... Just as they're beginning to emerge from their infant helplessness, the television set temporarily but inexorably returns them to a state of attachment and dependence." (Bold mine.)

Television also negatively affects something called inferential reasoning, Winn says: "One particular skill...that [has shown] a significant decline [among schoolchildren] -- an advanced reading skill called 'inferential reasoning' -- has caused particular concern.... Inferential reasoning is the ability, beyond the mere mechanics of reading, to draw conclusions, form judgments, and create new ideas out of what one reads. The ability to make inferences is essential to meaningful reading in literature, history, science, and other subjects. Without this complex ability, reading becomes a superficial exercise." She gives the example of a project carried out by a Harvard University research organization called Project Zero that connects the decline in inferential reasoning with children's television watching.

The final point I found so compelling in Winn's book is the connection between television and a growing lack of community-mindedness. She says that "[s]tarting in the late 1960s or early 1970s, Americans seemed to grow considerably less community-minded than they had been in years past" and that in "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Harvard social historian Robert Putnam points out that the first television generation was precisely the one that marked the beginning of the decline." Putnam's conclusion was that "'[a] major commitment to television viewing -- such has most of us have come to have -- is incompatible with a major commitment to community life.'" (Bold mine.)

So there you have it. TV makes real-life less real, displaces human interaction, hampers development only produced by play, replaces the power of reading and writing with the passivity of viewing, promotes dependence when independence is crucial, limits the ability to reason inferentially, and narrows the scope of one's involvement in the world.
post #20 of 57
I didn't read all the replies. But I wanted to put in my 2c

Quote:
Originally Posted by meemee View Post
what is the difference between reading and 'watching' - be it tv or movies.
why is one better than the other.
Quote:
Originally Posted by meemee View Post
dd argues that content is content, whether you watch tv or read a book or google.
My take is that I agree with her re: content. I think it's not really any different, and sometimes maybe TV is better, for content.

As for concentration, though, books far surpass TV. Reading is an activity that takes active engagement, and also, it's a skill that takes practice to get proficient. Unfortunately it's a skill that has gone way downhill in the US, and is sorely lacking anymore.
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