Television redefines media

60 Minutes ran an Australian story about kids who spend too much time 'using media'. What a steaming great pile of rubbish.

Television - you've got to love it. Well, somebody has to. I tuned in to 60 Minutes recently for no other reason than I had no choice. I could have got up off the couch and gone somewhere else, but frankly I'd just finished my book and was in no mood to do anything.

60 Minutes ran an Australian story about kids who spend too much time "using media". The thrust of the story seemed to be, according to the TVNZ promo, parents are in danger of "losing and [sic] entire generation of children to cyberspace".

This assumption is based on a US report that says kids are spending more and more time either on the Net, watching TV or reading.

What a steaming great pile of rubbish. Should we expect TVNZ to run a story next week about libraries being bad for our kids? "Children Spending Time Eating" will be the next headline.

The story, and I haven't read the report its based on because nowhere did they actually name the report or the writers, also focused almost exclusively on electronic media as being the baddies.

Despite all the experts constantly referring to television as one of the problem areas, the journalist kept harping on about the Internet, gaming and books.

Not once (I was counting) did he mention television as being a culprit. Every time an expert talked about electronic media a shot of Quake III was shown, or kids at a gaming arcade.

Okay, let me be the first to say I play games online. I also surf the Net for fun and profit, and read both books and magazines and occasionally daily newspapers (although I buy those mainly for their fire starting properties) and could probably do with getting out into the garden a bit more and maybe kick a ball about a bit.

If I had a dog it would be a different story, but there you go. I'm a mouse potato - so sue me.

The idea that we should stop, or even try to stop, the next generation from reading is such a head-in-the-sand point of view that I don't know where to begin flaming it.

Kids wanting to learn shouldn't be seen as a problem - it should be nurtured and encouraged and celebrated. The fact that kids are happier than their parents with modern technology shouldn't be denigrated but should be lauded.

My niece is five years old and is quite happy hopping on a plane from Wellington and flying unaccompanied to Hamilton to see her grandparents (hi Hannah).

That astonishes me and I can't help but think of Newton's quote about standing on the shoulders of giants - we are the launch pad for the next generation, in the same way our parents gave us a leg-up.

The thing that bugs me most about the 60 Minutes piece is the way the journalist pointed the finger at every medium but television.

TV has been the new kid on the block when it comes to news. Papers and magazines have been around for hundreds of years. Even radio has been around for decades and has been a respected source of information. TV was the poor cousin, with its sound bites and need for pictures to show something happened.

Now TV can pick on the Internet and so it does at every turn, it seems. There are so few TV news stories that even begin to cover IT accurately that it's not funny.

How many times have you watched an item on the news about something in your specailist area and it's been accurate? I think that's probably the exception rather than the rule.

Sadly, even the six o'clock premiere news bulletin was no better - a US item about the introduction of the RIP bill in Britain - mangled a very important story and managed to keep a straight face while not mentioning the US government's moves to monitor its citizens' email.

RIP, for those who don't know, is the bill about to be re-introduced into the House of Commons that will require users prove they don't have encrypted files on their machine, provide government with a key, or serve two years in jail.

If I claim you have an encrypted file, you have to prove you don't. Guilty until proven innocent.

I don't know why I expect more from TV but I do. We should tell five people outside the industry that it's nonsense.

Maybe word of mouth can get the truth across. Besides, it'll get you out in the fresh air and away from all that horrible information. It'll be good for you.

Paul Brislen is a Computerworld journalist. Letters for publication should be sent to cw_letters@idg.co.nz.

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