Television Viewing And Academic Achievement
As Neuman (1991) noted, television is a common target for those seeking to lay blame for educational dilemmas such as poor national test scores, academic skills, and levels of literacy. Often, the assumption underlying such arguments is what has come to be known as the displacement hypothesis, that is, the notion that television viewing takes time away from homework and more productive leisure-time activities, such as reading. However, research has shown that, in truth, the relationship between television and academic achievement is not nearly so simple and direct.
When television was first introduced on a broad scale, early research compared thousands of children who lived in American or British towns where television was available to children living in nearby towns where it was not (e.g., Himmelweit, Oppenheim, & Vince, 1958; Schramm et al., 1961). These studies suggested that the presence of television did lead to significant changes in children’s use of their time, but that it made little difference in the amount of time that children devoted to homework. In addition, Schramm et al. found no change in the time children spent reading books, and whereas Himmelweit et al. initially found a decline in book reading (particularly among children who had shown only a marginal interest in reading in the first place), reading returned to pretelevision levels a few years after television was introduced. Where, then, did the time spent with television come from? Primarily, television took time away from activities that served similar functions, such as listening to the radio, going to movies, and reading comic books.
A similar study was conducted some years later by Williams and her colleagues(Williams, 1986; cf. MacBeth, 1996). They compared children in three Canadian towns: one in which television was unavailable (code-named Notel), one that received only one television station (Unitel), and one that received several stations (Multitel). As in the earlier studies, the researchers found that children who had access to television used their time differently from those who did not. However, they also found that second-grade children in Notel scored higher on tests of reading fluency and creative thinking than children in the other two towns. The differences disappeared 2 years after television was introduced in Notel, suggesting that the presence of television had been responsible for the effect (Corteen & Williams, 1986; Harrison & Williams, 1986).
A number of studies used correlational data to investigate relationships between children’s television viewing and their achievement in school. Williams, Haertel, Walberg, and Haertel (1982) conducted a meta-analysis using data from 23 large-scale studies, and concluded that there was a small inverse relationship between amount of viewing and achievement r = –.05). However, part of the reason why the correlation was so low was that the relationship between television viewing and achievement was not linear. Rather, it was curvilinear; children who watched 10 hours of television per week performed slightly better (not worse) than those who watched less, but as viewing increased beyond 10 hours per week, achievement declined dramatically.
Comstock and Paik’s (1991) analysis of data from the California Assessment Study argued for a more linear relationship, but further support for curvilinearity came from Neuman’s (1988, 1991) analysis of several large-scale studies. Neuman found that there was little relation between viewing and reading performance among children who watched 2 to 4 hours of television per day (i.e., 14 to 28 hours per week), but that performance was considerably lower for children who watched more than that. Similarly, some studies have suggested that there may be thresholds of viewing, beyond which excessive television viewing is associated with poorer academic achievement. Fetler (1984) found that viewing for more than 6 hours per day (i.e., 42 hours per week) was associated with lower performance in literacy and mathematics, and Potter (1987) found that television viewing was negatively related to achievement for eighth to twelfth graders who watched more than 30 hours per week.
The complexity of the relationship between television and school achievement can be attributed to several factors. One is the fact that school achievement is predicted much more strongly by variables such as IQ and socioeconomic status (both of which predict television viewing as well). Another is that the relationship between viewing and achievement differs somewhat by age (e.g., Huston &Wright, 1997; Neuman, 1991).
In addition, Comstock (1989) suggested that television viewing is inversely related to achievement when it displaces intellectually richer experiences, but positively related when it supplies such experiences. Along similar lines, I would argue for one more factor that complicates the picture and may have reduced the strength of the relationship observed in these studies. Each of the studies mentioned above looked only at how much television was viewed, and not at the nature of the television programs that children watched. Not all television programs are the same, and they do not all produce the same effects among viewers.
For example, longitudinal research by Wright, Huston, and their colleagues found that preschool viewing of Sesame Street and other educational television programs predicted higher performance in subsequent tests of academic skills. By contrast, however, preschool viewing of entertainment programs predicted poorer performance (Wright, Huston, Murphy, et al., 2001; Wright, Huston, Scantlin, & Kotler, 2001; see chap. 2, this volume). As the late JohnWright was fond of saying, “Marshall McLuhan appears to have been wrong. The medium is not the message. The message is the message!” (Anderson, Huston, Schmitt, Linebarger,&Wright, 2001, p. 134).
Reproduzido de Free Education Info.
Reproduzido de Free Education Info.
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