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Books vs TV: Literature's Losing Battle

Updated on December 23, 2008
A rare sight, it seems.
A rare sight, it seems.

Growing up, I was allowed one half hour of television per weekday. If there was something else on that I wanted to watch, I had to tape it and watch it on the weekend (when I had an hour each day).

On playdates, my friends and I ran around the neighborhood playing pretend and exploring. We biked to the local candy store or to the playground at school. My parents didn't let us watch television on playdates; they were for playing.

My brother, just five years younger than me, spends a great deal of time playing video games and social networking on the computer. And while he does play outside, it's not the hours- of- playing- until- it- gets- dark that I used to do.

What Changed?

It feels like TV and video games have taken over. Granted, it's taken a good ten to fifteen years, but I think it's finally happened. I shudder to think what my kids will be doing for fun fifteen years from now...

The problem is that television and video games take away a great deal of the wonder of childhood. Reading a book, you have to fully engage your imagination. You have to connect the letters that you are reading to a full image, a whole world that you've created on your own. Television hands that to you.

The Effects

Everyone is always saying that Generation Y wants everything handed to them, and I think that this is why: everything is being handed to them in their recreational time. They don't have to work to get joy from a plot; they merely have to sit back and let the movie take them there.

And it's not lazy parenting, it's just parents having no idea of how to cope with the overwhelming influence of the digital age. It wasn't around when they were kids so they don't know what it feels like to be addicted to video games (and many, many kids are). Similarly, Generation Y doesn't know what it's like to have only the option of relying on your imagination and being forced to play with neighbors and explore the neighborhood.

Enjoying books makes children smarter by engaging parts of their brain that nothing else does. We can only hope that there is some sort of backlash against this digital takeover so we can get kids back to reading.


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    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 5 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks for weighing in, guys! It's great to hear that teenagers are still reading. There's a whole community of people (many of them high schoolers) dedicated to reading and thinking and making the world better, if you wanna check them out. Google "Nerdfighters" or YouTube "vlog brothers" to get started.

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      Frani 5 years ago

      I am also a teenager in highschool, and i'm crazy about reading. Most days you would find me reading outside. It is true that tv and digital games are almost all that children, and teenagers do for fun, but remember the almost. one of the biggest problems is that are not books that children want to read. Try putting computers and tv series together with books, so much more people would want to read!

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      Jordan96 5 years ago

      I am a teenager in Highschool, and i love to read more than anything. It's so sad that i can never talk to anyone about books that i have read lately, they are all too busy talking about Call Of Duty and all of that (which i don't play at all). The digital age has taken over in my life, but i wont let it penetrate me, i love to read and i always have. One day when i have kids, i'm not even going to have cable, i am going to just let them go crazy on my massive book collection. Maybe we can save the next generation.

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      jason 6 years ago


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      Robin71 6 years ago

      AMEN!!! You are so right, I have often said that the digital age was choking the life out of Imagination. I to was allowed to only watch t.v. at certain times. During the school days it was only after the evening meal and our homework was done. We could watch until bedtime which was at (depending on age)7pm-9pm. Like you on the weekends we were allowed more time, but always we were incouraged to get outside and play. Even to the point that we learned how to use our imaginations even indoors.

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      redrosepetals 6 years ago

      As a current college student and a video game gal, I can see what you mean about reading. However, I try to read at least a chapter or two when I can and still go out with my little cousins to play games in the woods. But I also agree that television is not all bad since there are some programs out there that help little ones with language, math, history, and so forth. There are always a positive when a negative is present.

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      AstralWolf 6 years ago

      I agree in a sense, I actually am a big player of video games and love to program them, but I am still an avid reader and love to be outside, be it sun or rain. However, being a student still, I 'have' noticed a large portion of classes giving heavy sighs when we have to read even the thinnest of books and am a little dissapointed at the lack of interest in them.

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      butterfly 7 years ago

      I agree even though i'm only a student.

      I love reeding but hardly any people these days read.

      Reading lets your imagination run wild, it takes you all around the world but you are still home, it gives a free spirit, and it improves you'r english.

      I hope people kids will oneday realize how interesting reading is.

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      dYLAN kdaswq 7 years ago

      Hello americans!:) WOOOF WOOOF:)

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      dude 7 years ago

      well i love video games and tv AND im a great reader, just because i play xbox most of the day doesn't mean i suck at reading, look at mass effect 2 every single piece of dialogue you choose and you also have to read most video games have lots of reading in them nowadays, stop complaining and just deal with it

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      fritz 8 years ago

      I only half-heartedly agree. I am a parent of two boys, both of whom love video games and TV. I do not severely restrict their game time, except as a consequence of poor behavior. The TV is there when they want it. They still manage to find time to go play in the woods, and still crave the companionship of others. My son still loves to read books.

      These technologies are new, and often frightening, but kids are not new, and neither is human nature. People will always want to be with other people, and will always enjoy fresh air and exercise, because such behavior is healthy and, as a result, written into everyone's DNA. Video is not going to change that.

      I DO agree that there are problems with people being conditioned by an environment where instant gratification is the norm, but I don't think you can lay the blame on media alone. This is simply an inevitable result of the proliferation of technology in general. I don't think it's going to prove to be the end of western civilization. It doesn't take you hours to find and prepare food these days either, but no one complains about that. And people still remember how to hunt and fish....they just spend less time doing it.

      If people read less in the future, it will be because they don't need to. And if they don't need to, then who cares?

    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks for the link, zbad! That's an excellent little essay there. Television isn't necessarily the enemy; it's our inability to enjoy things in moderation. :)

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      zbad 8 years ago

      read this counter-argument.

      i couldn't put it better than the person in this link ^

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      JohnConnor 8 years ago

      I agree totally. I'm actually doing a research paper on this subject right now, and it's good to see people agree with opinions like mine.

      Also, notice how here, the people reading this article and commenting on it type coherently and legibly, none of this, "omgz ur articlez is soooo good d00d" crap that is the bile of the internet. Devolution is coming via the internet and television.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      So very true! I'm feeling your pain. My children do not explore like I did in the woods pretending to be pirates, or cowboys, or explorers. They seem to be willing to sit and watch instead of creating.

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      highwaystar 9 years ago

      I guess you're not called helenathegreat for no reason, you've touched on avery sensitive subject in your hub, thanks for a relevant and informative read, Cheers.

      Btw, if you'd like to do something about it, feel free to check out this resource at: and help put the learning power back into your control and kids hands, the results have been dramatic.

    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 9 years ago from Manhattan

      It's so upsetting! What are kids going to be like when none of them enjoys reading?

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 9 years ago from California

      I certainly hope that the backlash happens soon, reading is becoming a lost art!