Island offers insight on TV’s impact on kids

LONDON — The tiny island of St. Helena in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean is the setting for research that seems to debunk the perception that TV is bad for children.

The British colony only began receiving live TV in 1995, and since that time a study conducted by professor Tony Charlton for the U.K.’s Economic & Social Research Council finds that, if anything, children’s behavior there has improved, not worsened.

The 6,000-strong populace of St. Helena now has CNN, SuperSport, Discovery, Cartoon Network and the Hallmark film channel.

St. Helena’s kids already are well-behaved — of 9- to 12-year-olds, only 3.4% have behavioral problems, as opposed to 14% in London — but since the advent of TV, temper tantrums, teasing, bullying and fighting have diminished.

The kids say they now have shows they can discuss on the playground after the previous night’s viewing, in other words share their feelings of a common experience that is simply entertaining, or even raises moral and ethical issues, according to the study.

Some children, intriguingly, actually feel that their parents, not themselves, may be adversely impacted by exposure to television.

One student pointed to recent minor civil unrest over aid cuts by the British government as having been prompted by demonstrations and riots seen on the news from other parts of the world.

Teenagers who watched violent films on Hallmark felt the pics could possibly incite violence, but not on St. Helena, because the community is too close-knit.

The entire island has been transfixed by up-to-the-moment access to the news, most notably by the O.J. Simpson trial, the Oklahoma City bombing and the Dunblane school-yard massacre in Scotland, all of which had strong emotional impacts, according to the study.

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