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Here’s an e-petition we should all support: that ‘children’s TV should carry a government health warning’

Whether you agree that Catholics should actually Unplug their Televisions, we need to understand that this is a dangerous medium

By on Thursday, 13 October 2011

It is probably better not to expose children to TV at all (Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire)

It is probably better not to expose children to TV at all (Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire)

You may remember that a month or two ago, I wrote about an engaging organisation called CUT, which stands for Catholics Unplug your Televisions. Though I had reservations about CUT, to do with the fact that TV’s capacity to produce wholesome programming would be undermined if we just withdrew from involvement in this medium (what would happen to EWTN?), and that the Pope’s idea that we should use the media to fight the good fight would be gravely impaired. Not only that: I asked an obvious question: how does CUT know about the programmes it rightly has a go at in its newsletter and on its website if it doesn’t watch them? I concluded that in the middle of any war, especially the war against secularism that the Pope continually calls on us to wage, you have to know what the enemy is up to. If you simply unplug your televisions, they can do anything, unchallenged.

All the same, we all know that CUT is basically right about the extreme dangers of this particular medium, and they are currently waging a campaign that we should all support, against the dangers of television to our children. This is how they list them on their website:

What the TV can do to your children:

Stunts a child’s brain development

Delays child language acquisition

Encourages passivity

Reduces concentration

Sexualises children

Increases child sleep disorders

TV violence and child aggression

Obesity leading to type 2 diabetes

High Blood pressure in Children

Even in some cases ADHD

So, CUT have instigated an e-petition. The motion is that “TV programmes directed at children should carry a government health warning”. The responsible department is the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. For those who don’t know about e-petitions (I think this was one of Tony Blair’s big ideas, and unlike some, was quite a good one), the following explains how you set one up (the government does it if they accept it in the first place):

“Search published e-petitions;
Click the “info” icon to find out more about each step;
Search existing e-petitions before creating a new one;
Create your e-petition;
It will be checked by a government department;
An e-petition can be open for up to 1 year info;
the public can sign it;
If you collect 100,000 signatures, your e-petition could be debated in the House of Commons”.

But then again, it might not be: and if it is, what then? But it’s all a lot better than doing nothing: it can get the public debate under way, and this particular one is very timely. There is a climate of disquiet over our media, and over our children’s moral formation. Over the summer, we had the riots: and those of us who have been going on for years about the dangers of the premature sexualisation of children (being consistently slagged off as Right-wing bigots) have noted with some satisfaction that the NSPCC and even some politicians have noted that this phenomenon actually exists. Last year, David Cameron was reported as saying (before the election) all this:

David Cameron warned advertisers, magazines and broadcasters today that they faced tough action from a Conservative government to protect children from sexual and violent images.

The Tory leader, who has a five-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son, protested that young children were subjected to “premature sexualisation” and “arbitrary violence” in the media.

He has previously condemned the sale of padded bras and sexy knickers aimed at under-10s in the high street. Today he went further, warning that Tory ministers would be prepared to ban raunchy and violent images likely to be seen by youngsters. Retailers could also be told to take inappropriate products off their shelves.

Mr Cameron said: “It’s high time the children’s market and advertisers show much more restraint in the way they operate.

“We don’t want to resort to regulation. But we will make it clear that if business doesn’t exercise some corporate responsibility, we will not be afraid to impose it.

Well, he hasn’t done much since coming to power. So maybe a good response to CUT’s e-petition might give him a bit of a prod:

We petition that all television programmes directed at children should carry a government health warning. There have been many studies on the effects of the television on children. Most have come to the conclusion that it is better not to expose young children to the TV at all. Some national governments like the French have issued warnings about children and TV exposure. Researchers have found that watching television undermines the development of children under three, encouraged passivity, delayed language acquisition, increased agitation, reduced concentration and increased the incidence of sleep disorders. The French broadcasting authority Conseil Superior Audiovisuel (CSA) actually banned TV channels from marketing shows aimed at toddlers. With the recent riots in London and other cities involving many children there is strong evidence that television violence can cause violence in society.

Well, I have signed it, and I think as many of us as possible should do so. Whether or not you agree with CUT that we shouldn’t even possess a television licence or a television set, CUT is definitely on the side of the angels and the archangels (and particularly of the archangel Michael, who figures on their splendid logo, spearing Satan as he emerges from a large flat-screen TV) and they ought to be supported in this. Click on to it here.

  • Anonymous

    “what would happen to EWTN?”
    EWTN’s signal is so indescribably appalling that it could disappear tomorrow and it would make no difference, because I can’t watch it anyway. It may be ok in London, but if it wants a UK market it needs to improve its technology. It makes no difference whether I’m at my parents’ home in the depths of the countryside or in my flat in the centre of the country’s second largest city.

  • Anonymous

    When my children were young the only part of the TV schedules they were ever forbidden from viewing was the ITV and BBC TV programmes directly made for Children – They were ‘pornographic’ in the worst sense of the word in that they advocated disrespect, irresponsibility, humiliation of those who didn’t belong, and a contrariety of values in that there were some acts in which  you conformed to be cool but others where defiant non-conformity was praised;   but they also had some quasi-politically correct situationist sub-utilitarian ethic where moral contradiction reigned and pragmatism was accepted providing it was ‘right on’

    But this e-petition?

    Absolute baloney!
    It’s cowardly and refuses to address what’s truly at issue – social engineering and ideological indoctrination of our young into a conformity with a contemporary secularising utterly immoral outlook.

    The alleged research into what TV-viewing can do to a child can be refuted every step of the way with examples of it performing the diammetrically opposite! Encouraging family interaction, increasing concentration, stimulating and promoting physical activity, enhancing empathy and understanding of social issues, accelerating language acquisition etc

    If they want to fight about what’s really wrong with Children’s TV – I’ll back them to the hilt.
    But when they chicken out and decide to go along the lines of spurious, ludicrous health concerns?

    I will not sign!

    p.s. a single Episode of Spongebob Squarepants is worth the Licence fee and cable bill combined!

  • Stefano Mazzeo

    There are many ways which TV is damaging children. It makes children aggressive, stunts their brain’s development, gives them a low vocabulary, many children are starting school with poorer language skills than ever. You may be interested in this link

  • Stefano Mazzeo

    The TV Sexualises children

    With sex and sex references on the TV children are becoming sexually active younger than ever. School nurses are spending more and more time on sex related problems. From government think-tanks to the very media themselves there is increasing concern regarding sexual imagery particularly on the TV4. Pop videos and Rock/pop TV channels like MTV and computer games that target young girls like Miss Bimbo where girls order breast implants and try to get billionaire husbands. The watershed is totally ineffective.

    The TV Causes bad language and bad behaviour

    The television has been found to cause most of the behavioural problems in children and youth today. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) said that, according to their members, programmes like Big Brother, Little Britain and EastEnders are inciting poor behaviour among their pupils5. Incidents include rudeness in class, answering back, mimicking, using retorts and catchphrases. Teachers are also very concerned by the use by children of inappropriate language following the viewing of television programmes.

    please note CUT does not support all the content of the websites linked

  • Stefano Mazzeo

    Dear PaulpriestThank you for your comment and peace be with you. I do not think that our work is cowardly for we have often addressed many issues including social engineering, please visit our website. This epetition is just one of the issues in which we are engaged at the moment which we fully believe in. Some national governments have already accepted the evidence that the TV is damaging to children’s health. We also address the issues of secular indoctrination and our winter newsletter will cover many aspects of the affects the TV has on children. You are obviously concerned regarding certain aspects of the TV so please write to me at the address on our website and I will be able to give you are fuller picture of our work. You may be interested in this experiment – which for obvious could not be done today.

  • Alan Rigby Marr

    It is time as a civilised country did take  some action to protect our children and whats more future generations.
    Therefore anything done to get the government and the public to do something to stop the exposure of our children to overtly and destructive images of violence and sex is important. 
    Alan Marr    

  • Anonymous

    When you know that a generation have been brought up on the soaps,which viewers accept as a way of life, with the abortion,euthanasia, all the immorality you could think of, and you know it leads to spiritual death,which was the object of most of the television programmes from the start of television in the 1950s. It was decided that this was the best way that communism could be brought into societies worldwide,and so it was. Then when you hear the next generation of our grandchildren excited to be watching the soap of the night, it makes you sick at heart, as they are being indoctrinated into the next generation of communism..and then we even pay for this through the television licence.Time we woke up.

  • Anonymous

    Paulpriest has contradicted himself
    I have signed
    We need to support this.

  • Anonymous

    If we could support EWTN instead of the BBC it would be wonderful.It would give them the funds to compete but our broadcasters would not want this – would they? So parents please keep your children away from the TV

  • W Oddie

    Spongebob? SPONGEBOB! surely you cannot be praising this ineffable drivel? Am I really so wrong about it? What is so good about this programme? Explain, please.

  • Stefano Mazzeo

    The research upon which this petition is based is derived from medical and scientific sources. These range from the BMA and the Lancet, the University of Washington, the National Union of Teachers and many more. They have all come to the conclusion that it is better to keep your children away from the television screen particularly when they are under three years of age. However, if parents are unaware that there is a problem how can they make an informed decision? This is why the petition is calling for a notice (health warning) to be displayed before children’s programmes this includes especially dedicated children’s channels like CBeebies. The broadcasting companies will not give these studies much exposure they certainly will not make TV programmes about the problem. They will however publicise the few studies that say the television is beneficial to a child these studies are often funded by vested interests.

    However, those who believe that the TV is damaging young minds like Zimmerman & Christakes of the University of Washington say that children who were exposed to too much TV when very young find it difficult to concentrate, they become easily bored, they are disruptive in school, hyperactive and generally badly behaved virtually everywhere. You’ve heard that child screaming in the supermarket and elsewhere and the desperate parent trying to quieten the child. This is often a case of too much TV and such children can even develop ADHD. Not all ADHD is caused by over exposure to the TV but a marked number are. In cases of extreme ADHD, Ritalin is the only answer. Ritalin is a drug that sedates the child and can make it quietly euphoric many children on Ritalin become drug addicts when they reach adulthood. Kurt Cobain of the rock group Nirvana was given Ritalin as a child. After Cobain’s suicide Courtney Love, another rock star said, ”When you’re a kid and you get this drug that makes you feel that feeling, where else are you going to turn when you’re an adult? It was euphoric when you were a child – isn’t that memory going to stick with you?”

    When some children who have had a large dose of TV exposure when very young reach 7 to their teens they become very difficult to control in schools. The teachers in one Lancashire school came out on strike last April because of the very bad behaviour of their pupils. The children were virtually uncontrollable they used swear words at teachers pushed them and displayed altitudes and catchphrases learnt from TV programmes. Yet according to Ofsted this school was one of the best non-faith schools in the country. It is becoming clear to those who study the media and particularly screen media that children are being damaged by it. They relate to the physical state of children and to their minds, we are not even discussing the spiritual in this petition, although we have studied this aspect as well.  So please sign the petition and let there at least be a debate on the affects of the TV on children.

  • Iona

    I believe that we are in an unusual situation in the UK, in that in order to watch TV at all we have to have a licence, and this licence supports the BBC financially. So, by paying for the licence (or even by having one which we don’t pay for, e.g. if over the age of 75, since the government then pays for that licence) we are directly supporting BBC programmes, some of which are excellent, some of which are rubbish and some of which are misleading, one-sided and dangerous.

    I think this is why CUT is in favour of people in the UK getting rid of the TV altogether, rather than using it judiciously.  

  • Anonymous

    The television has an adverse effect on the whole family

  • Daphne mcleod

    I do agree that children need to be protected from much that is on TV.  That is why it is best to watch with them so you can step in when necessary.  They also need to be protected from the R E in too many Catholic schools. Parents need to borrow the R.E. textbooks and read them to make sure they know what is going on before it is too late.

  • Stefano Mazzeo

    The Telegraph have also just started to roport on the dangers of the TV and children. Perhaps they have seen Dr Oddies Blog? please see the link below.

  • Joemcc32

    Parents have a choice. They can chose what their kids can watch or not so all this bull about not having tvs is exactly that. I should mention that i also dont believe in any god or angels and i have never taught my kids that there is as i feel i would be filling their heads with more bull. At least we know the tv is fantasy. People actually believe in a god. Each to their own  but let me chose for myself what i want my kids to watch. I should like to finish by saying that i have successfully brought up 3 great kids.