Children learn almost nothing from television, and the more they watch the less they remember. They regard television purely as entertainment, resent programs that demand on them and are surprised that anybody should take the medium seriously. Far from being over-excited by programs, they are mildly bored with the whole thing. These are the main conclusions from a new study of children and television. The author- Cardiac Cullingford confirms that the modern child is a dedicated viewer. The study suggests that there is little point in the later hours. More than a third of the children regularly watch their favorite programs after 9 p.m. all 11-year-olds have watched programs after midnight.
Apart from the obvious waste of time involved, it seems that all this viewing has little effect. Children don't pay close attention, says Cullingford, and they can recall few details. They can remember exactly which programs they have seen but they can rarely explain the elements of a particular plot. Recall was in "reverse proportion to the amount they had watched". It is precisely because television, unlike a teacher, demands so little attention and response that children like it, argues Cullingford. Programs seeking to put over serious messages are strongly disliked. So are people who frequently talk on screen. What children like most, and remember best, are the advertisements. They see them as short programs in their own right and particularly enjoy humorous presentation. But again, they react strongly against high-pressure advertisements that attempt openly to influence them.
On the other hand, they are not emotionally involved in the programs. If they admire the stars, it is because the actors lead glamorous lives and earn a lot of money, not because of their fictional skills with fast cars and shooting villains. They are perfectly clear about the functions of advertisements; by the age of 12, only one in 10 children believes what even favorite ads