EDUCATING CHILDREN WITH TELEVISION: THE FORMS OF THE MEDIUM
Aletha C. Huston
John C. Wright
University of Kansas
Parents are often told that their children would be better off if they turned off the television set. Many critics argue that television as a medium is harmful to children and adults alike. This argument implies that it is not just the content of television, but something about the medium itself that may induce laziness, passivity, hyperactivity, or many other ills. What distinguishes television from radio, books, and other media are the forms in which information is presented, not the content messages. In this chapter, we describe a program of research investigating the forms or formal features of television for children. We argue that children attend to and learn from television actively, and, that used optimally, television is particularly well suited to educate and inform them about a wide range of content areas. Parents can use television as a positive force for their children as well as taking an active role in protecting their children from harmful content.
Formal features of television are relatively content-free attributes that are a result of production and editing. They include visual techniques (e.g.,