Media Column

February 22, 1984 2 min read

Members of the California Congress of Parents and Teachers began a campaign last month to rid television of computer commercials that they say create a “false” impression that computers are necessary for success in school.

Because the commercials may have damaging effects on children, said Harriet Borson, educational technology chairman of the state pta board, pta leaders adopted a resolution last month urging members to protest the commercials by writing or calling the companies that produce them.

A commercial that the state pta board found “particularly offensive,” said board member Grace Foster, is one for Commodore Business Machines in which a small-town boy goes off to college and fails. The clear implication, Ms. Foster said, is that the student fails because he does not have a home computer.

“We recognize the importance of computers as an additional tool in the educational process, but we have a concern about equity and access to computers,” Ms. Borson said. Members of the group were concerned that the advertisements may cause lower self-esteem and lack of academic motivation in children whose parents cannot afford to purchase home computers, Ms. Borson said, and may also create false expectations of success among parents and students who do have computers.

Although Commodore recently changed advertising agencies and will no longer be using the commercial the pta group found objectionable, a spokesman for the company said students who have experience with computers do have an academic edge on those who do not.

“Any group that doesn’t think that some knowledge of computers is necessary is somewhat naive,” said Daniel Kunz, director of educational software for Commodore.

American families are watching more television than ever, according to research by the television rating company A.C. Nielsen.

In 1983, the average family watched seven hours and two minutes of television every day, up 14 minutes from the previous year.

Television viewing has increased steadily since the 1950’s, when the average family watched four and a half hours daily, but the change in viewing habits from 1982 to 1983 represents the largest increase in a decade, according to the research.

Several factors contributed to the growth, said industry experts, but cable television has had a major impact, a spokesman for the Television Advertising Bureau in New York City said. Its wide variety of programming, often available 24 hours a day, has pushed the networks to improve their programming in response, the spokesman said.

“Old Enough To Do Time,” a documentary on juvenile-justice policies, will air on pbs stations March 21.

Daniel J. Travanti, who plays Captain Frank Furillo on NBC’s “Hill Street Blues,” will narrate the program. It will focus on new state laws that make it easier to transfer juveniles to the adult criminal-justice system.--cc

A version of this article appeared in the February 22, 1984 edition of Education Week as Media Column