Throughout most of adolescence many children are fed ideas about the evils of television viewing. It is asserted that television promotes such vices as violence, sex, drugs, and foul language, but a far more common assertion is that television has a negative impact upon one’s ability to perform highly in school. This paper will not, however, perpetuate the assumption that television functions as an inherently evil medium whose observation lends only to negative performance in school, nor will this paper allege that television on the whole catalyzes positive educational achievement.
This paper will affirm that a degree of television watching is actually beneficial to a student’s educational experience, and thus can increase the student’s academic achievement. According to studies done on academic performance as it relates to television viewing hours, the relationship between the two factors is not linear. As one plots academic performance as a function of hours of television viewing, one begins to see a curvilinear trend develop. According to Micha Razel of the School of Education at Bar-Ilan University, Israel, “the function relating achievement to viewing can be described as an inverted check mark.
For small amounts of viewing, achievement increased with viewing but as viewing increased beyond a certain point, achievement decreased” (Razel 1). Razel explains through his research that there exists a certain amount of viewing which is most beneficial for students of each age group. His claim asserts that a specific amount of television viewing exists which is ideal for student performance for every age group, and that a viewing time less than that of the ideal results in lower performance just as viewing time greater than the ideal results in lower performance (Razel 1).
One of the major aspects of this analysis revolves around the association of age with viewing and achievement. As an adolescent increases in age, the ideal time for peak achievement decreases. According to Razel, “At age 9, the benefit of 1. 5 hr of viewing… is . 13 standard deviation. At 13, the benefit of 1 hr of viewing… is . 09 standard deviation. At age 17, the benefit of . 5 hr of viewing relative to nonviewing… is . 05 standard deviation” (Razel 4).
According to the positive standard deviations in these statistics, small amounts of television viewing actually benefit the student’s academic achievement, but the statistics also show that television has an inverse correlation with the age of the student. Razel is not alone in his findings in favor of the academic benefits to television. According to a study done by Franklin Thompson and William Austin of the University of Nebraska, “moderate levels of viewing are better than high levels or no viewing at all” (Thompson et al. 1).
Thompson and Austin also state in their analysis that there appears to be a threshold at which academic achievement begins to decline. They note that up until a certain weekly viewing range, television has no negative impact on academic achievement (Thompson et al. 2). They also cite some potential benefits of television viewing, saying, “We know that formal schooling is not the only variable that impacts reading ability… Preliminary findings are that positive television viewing has the potential to enhance reading comprehension skills for younger children” (Thompson et al. ). Several potential reasons for the positive correlation of television viewing and academic achievement exist. According to research done by David Memory of the Indiana State University School of Education, “… the major academic problem of today’s students is limited general knowledge… ” (Memory 2). Although many ascribe this problem to the nature of the television viewed by the typical student, television can actually offer a wealth of viewing options that actually increase general knowledge amongst students.
Along with documentaries and news shows typically associated with educational viewing, infotainment programs such as Jay Leno, Saturday Night Live, and The Daily Show increase students’ general knowledge by offering an entertaining spin on current events. Furthermore, as David Memory concedes in his article, “Situation comedies and dramas may be useful in dealing with issues related to social development and citizenship” (Memory 2).
The strongest argument for the positive effects of minimal television viewing rests in the arguments against the research done finding strong negative correlations with television viewing. One common argument against a benefit resulting from television viewing has been the idea that the nature of the medium is predisposed to causing negative effects on student performance. Television has been characterized as an information medium that actually molds the thinking process of children in a way not conducive to successful school thinking styles.
Characterizing television as detrimental due to its instantly gratifying and highly image oriented nature, some educators say that television results in the deterioration of the cognitive processes used in highly important academic activities such as reading and problem solving. This theory is known as the anti-school hypothesis (Hargborg 1). The problem with this idea is that it implies that television viewing has a consistently detrimental effect, thus a graph of television viewing would result in a constantly downward line for academic achievement as television viewing increased.
Research by Winston Hagborg in attempt to prove the anti-school hypothesis observed three groups of students with low, medium, and high quantities of television viewing. According to Hagborg, “this study did not uncover any significant differences among the three groups using the studied variables. Thus, these findings were not supportive of the anti-school hypothesis” (Hagborg 3). Another major problem with assumptions about the effects of television viewing is that many different researchers have reported completely contradictory results.
Firstly, as has been addressed in this paper, many conclude that television has an inherently negative affect upon academic achievement. Such researchers as Williams, Haertel, Haertel, and Walberg found this to be their conclusion in 1982 (Razel 1). This conclusion argues that as a student views more television-no matter how much-their achievement in school decreases inversely. Equally prevalent is the conclusion that television actually has a positive affect on academic achievement. Blosser found in his 1988 study that higher levels of television viewing hours result in improved academic achievement (Razel 1).
Other researchers, however, reach the conclusion that television viewing and academic achievement are completely unrelated. Scarborough came to this conclusion in his 1989 study on television’s effects on education (Razel 1). The common factors with all of these varying results is the idea that whether the relationship is positive or negative, the relationship will form a linear or consistently positively increasing or consistently negatively increasing graph. As shown in Razel’s study, the graph does not correlate in a linear fashion, but rather in an “inverse U” fashion.
Unaccounted for in many of these studies, age plays an essential roll in the affects of television viewing. One reason many studies find the relationship to be linear is a failure to account for age differences. It has been shown that as a student increases in age, the apex viewing time decreases (Austin 2). When one observes each age group separately, it can be seen that a curvilinear relationship exists within that age group. To conclude, while television is not the best medium for increasing grades, there does exist a threshold at which viewing maximizes academic achievement.
As shown, only an inverted U model of academic achievement and television viewing serves to accurately display the relationship between those two variables. Other linear versions result in contradictory conclusions when not based on age, but when age is applied to a curvilinear graphical analysis, the relationship can been seen. That relationship is that for every point in adolescence, there is a specific amount of television that maximizes the student’s potential for academic achievement immediately preceded and followed by declines in achievement when the optimum viewing time is not met.