Memo From Mac



The Burlington Hawk-Eye
The Hawk Eye
Burlington, Iowa

TV Doctor 
February 1975

This is just something to think about...

An argument has been going for years about how much children are influenced by what they see on television. Specifically, does the violence, sadism, and other unsavory behavior, vividly portrayed in TV shows, and which many children watch hour upon hour, really affect them? Can it, in effect, "brainwash" them into a state where they perceive violent conduct as a normal thing?

Many psychologists argue that it can, that there is a real danger. Others pooh pooh it. Children are not that fragile, that vulnerable, they insist. They take such things in stride whatever unconscious suggestion exists is outweighed by other influences in their lives.

The spectator to this argument can only assume that the anti-TV people have their psychologists, and the networks have theirs, and let it go at that.

But for what it is worth, here's a story:

Our grandson John, who is just over two (he was born on Nixon's birthday), has been seriously ill. Meningitis. It was caught in time. He had the benefit of all the skills of the University hospitals; and also the inter-denominational prayers of grandmothers and great-grandmothers stretching from Kansas to Burlington to Nauvoo, which must have given the Lord an especially busy two weeks.

So he recovered completely. No permanent damage. He was a mighty miserable little boy for two weeks, strapped to a bed so he wouldn't kick loose the big angry-looking IV needle that pumped the antibiotics into the vein of his leg, and the even more painful jabs of the spinal taps. But he went home happily the other day, and his young parents started getting back to their books.

Then, the next day, he had a sudden relapse. Fever, nausea, diarrhea. They rushed him back to the doctor, who could find no ready answer for the symptoms.

But he kept probing for details of everything John had done since he got home from the hospital. His parents reconstructed the story.

They were sitting in the living room of their mobile home, out on the eastside of Iowa City. John was happy on the floor, getting reacquainted with his toys. They were watching one of those medical shows, "Dr. Welby" or "Medical Center" or something. John's father, a medical student, claims it's homework when he wants to goof off.

Then there came a graphic scene in the show where the guest star, on the brink of death, was treated to an IV needle in the vein.

"Mommy, hurt!" John whimpered, and then crawled on the couch and curled up. When they checked him to see what was wrong, the fever was already up.

The doctor (the real one, not Welby) decided he had the answer.

"Psychological," he said. "He'll be all right." Next day, he was.

I don't know. Maybe the kid's a born actor. Or the doctor's a kook.

All I know is it got me to thinking about this whole question.

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