from The Incarnating Child by Joan Salter

copyright © 1987 Joan Salter

Hawthorn Press, Hawthorn House, 1 Lansdown Lane, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 1BJ UK



It can now be asked what is to be avoided if children are to grow into adults able to truly perceive and experience the world. What is it which destroys the capacity of eyes to see and ears to hear?

         Again, much has already been mentioned; the raucous shrill loud house sounds, the screeching of car brakes, traffic noise and confusion, the ugliness of shouting at another, ugly, garish colours—all these constantly bombarding the child's senses coarsen and harden just as surely as the hand is coarsened and hardened if used in an intensive way. This is not perceptible in the outer anatomical form of the organ, but more subtly, in its 'finest structure.[i] ' It is here that the organ will be affected, and there will be consequent lack of sensitivity.

         However, harmful as the above influences are, they pale into insignificance when one turns to consider the devastating and almost irreparable damage caused to the young child by watching television.

         To grasp this fully, one must clearly understand the very great difference between the effects of adult sensory experiences and those of the child.

         Many studies have been carried out to assess the effects of television on children and this has been considered from many points of view.

For instance, it is well documented that the artificial light emanating from the television screen is detrimental to health. The scientist John Ott showed the distortion caused to bean plants that were grown in front of a television set, and his work with mice is equally convincing[ii].  Dr. Stuart Black Kelly of the community Health Department of the Royal United Hospital at Bath U.K. considers that "children's eyes need t be protected from possible television damage."[iii] And again, Martin Large writes, "Constant eye movement is required for a healthy eye... Watching the screen is one of the most visually passive activities...the eyes are practically motionless."[iv]

         There is also the destruction of the child's ability to concentrate. This aspect was considered by F. AND M. Emery, psychologists working at the Australian National University Canberra. Their publication A Choice of Future; to Enlighten or Inform[v] states that television both "destroys the capacity of the viewer to attend... (and) by taking over a complex  of direct and indirect neural pathways, decreases vigilance." They point out that this form of 'distraction' is just the opposite to a concentrated frame of mind. They also deal with the adverse effects of television on the nervous system and its undermining of the child's ability to develop social skills and to communicate. The phenomenon of the so-called 'computer kid', children unable to communicate with parents of peers, is a sad commentary of the above. The Emerys also make telling observations on the relationship between hyperactivity in children and television.[vi]

         Other authorities speak of a number of further dangers. For example, Faith Hall, speech therapist, draws attention to speech deprivation;[vii] Plowdon, National Foundation for Educational Research, U.K. points to reading difficulties;[viii] and Dr. Edleson, Director of the Child Guidance Clinic, Bradford, U.K. reports on psychiatric disturbances.[ix] Added to these, the inhibiting of the child's fantasy must be mentioned. A lack of fantasy play is sadly observable in many kindergarten children who are unable to enter into make-believe situations or play at 'dressing-up' etc.[x] [...]

         To complete this survey, we will mention the work of Dr. Mulholland, psycho-physiologist, and Dr. Peter Crown, Professor of Psychology at Hampshire College, Massachusetts, U.S.A. who worked with changes in brain waves (i.e. alpha waves) in both adults and children who were engaged in viewing television. Their research brought them to the conclusion that such watching induces passivity (high frequency alpha waves). This was in contrast to similar tests carried out on children who were reading. These showed the reverse alpha pattern, indicating 'attentiveness'.[xi]

         All of these studies (and many more could be given) add up to a far reaching indictment of television for the young child. An important point on which such authorities agree is that it is not so much the content of the programme which is damaging, but the actual viewing itself. Whether the programme be 'good' or 'bad' is of minor significance.


[i] Zur Linden, Wilhelm, MD When A Child Is Born Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont 1998

[ii] John Ott Health and Light

[iii] Martin Large Who's bringing them up?

[iv] Ibid.

[v] published in 1975

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Martin Large op. cit.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Reported in the paper Community Health volume 9, no. 4, 1978. From Martin Large op. cit.

[x] I have had the good fortune of working in several kindergartens, and have been able to observe this myself.

[xi] Paper published in Newsweek 1977. From Martin Large op. cit.