s: children-television

D: Information on children and television, including statistics on how much television children watch.

Back in the late 1800s, a pair of brothers put together the first motion picture. Pioneers in photography, they stitched sequential photographs together to create a short, soundless clip of a train chugging into the station. They set up a projector to put their masterpiece on display and invited an audience.

Things didn’t go as planned. It wasn’t the motion picture that was flawed – that went off without a hitch. It was the audience’s reaction that threw them for a loop. People didn’t clap. There were no cheers, no hoorahs. The patrons of the first movie in history didn’t stand up and applaud, or marvel at this wonderful new application of technology.

Instead they screamed. They ran from the theatre in fright and ducked under their seats. They trampled each other on the way out the door. They covered their eyes and flailed their arms. Having never seen a motion picture before, their brains had no idea what to make of the sensory signals they were receiving. In their mind, they were about to be run over by a train. So they ran for their lives.

Fast forward more than 100 years, and TV has become such an intricate part of our lives that we barely think anymore about how it might be affecting us. We certainly don’t lose our minds in hysteria over every car chase or scary scene on TV. Yet if you ever start to question whether television and movies are influencing you or whether they are shaping your child’s brain, just recall the story of the first ever motion picture. The answer to this debate has been with us from the very beginning.

The brain does not distinguish between a lived image and an imagined one.”

– Peter Guber, CEO of Mandalay Entertainment

Our brains absorb information and experiences from the world around us, and it doesn’t much matter where that input is coming from. fMRI brain scans have shown that even today, watching a movie plays the brain like a puppeteer. When we’re attuned and into the movie, there’s little discernible difference in brain activity between watching a scene on TV and witnessing such events in real life. (Hasson et al., 2004) Once it reaches the brain, all external stimuli can affect us just the same.