Stop the presses! A new study by the University of Otago in New Zealand, released on Monday has made the definitive claim that television is the cause of criminal behavior….
Wait a second, this sounds familiar….
Stop the presses! A new study by the University of Otago in New Zealand, released Monday has made the definitive claim that television is the cause of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder….
Down with television!
However, what if instead, correlation is not causation? For instance, people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder tend to watch more television due to the lack of dopamine, and television offers an easy path to feedback in the reward center of the brain. They also, due to the concentration issues associated with the disorder, they have more difficulties in post-secondary education, find it difficult to regulate diabetes, and even have higher rates of criminal activity if untreated.
The University of Otago has held multiple studies on television, each one effectively finding ways to create a tie between it and some malady or other. It is a self-fulfilling routine, not showing causation but enabling low-education sources to cite them to push some agenda or other. It is bad science, simply put. As pointed out in the New York Times, they were too broad, without enough information to actually determine anything. Great for headlines, bad for science. Then other studies can cite this paper to back up their own flawed presumptions, creating a whole field based not on science, but on gotcha headlines.
A similar push resulted in the widespread false belief that vaccines cause autism. Due to the widespread misinformation caused by it, easily preventable diseases like the measles and whooping-cough are on the rise, putting the entire population at risk. By pushing this false positive, linking television to childhood issues, instead of helping children, we are putting them at risk. Now parents will not get proper treatment for issues such as ADHD and Autism, falsely linking them to television or vaccinations, respectively. Children not properly treated will, in turn, grow into adults without the necessary tools to have a full and productive life. This leads to a cycle of destruction. By attempting to insulate their child, reinforced by these bad-science studies, parents are only ensuring their children’s failure.
Actual science finds that there is a link between ADHD and criminality. It also finds that both rise, and fall, directly with exposure to pollution, not exposure to Dora the Explorer. But, the gotcha headlines and shock value of the studies by the University of Otago brings in the research dollars, feeding the vicious cycle. To get funding for research, they need to draw excitement, and to draw excitement, they compromise the science. And this is a disservice to real parents, with real issues. It is easy to blame a box sitting in the living room, more difficult to blame oil companies which spend billions in funding research.
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