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“Sesame Street” Proves TV Can Be Good for Us

After years of being told we should feel guilty for the time we spend in front of the tube, there’s finally compelling information that TV might actually be good for kids. A recent Wellesley College and University of Maryland study revealed that the educational PBS show “Sesame Street” is just as beneficial as pre-school when it comes to getting kids ready for kindergarten. And even though our days of watching Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch are long gone (unless it’s with our kids), it’s still nice to know that watching TV can, in fact, be beneficial. The study found that children who grew up watching “Sesame Street” were more likely to stay at the appropriate grade level for their age. And in an era before Head Start and regular pre-school attendance, the effects were particularly significant for urban, under-privileged children. This means that letting your kids spend an hour or two in front of the right television show isn’t lazy or irresponsible parenting. In fact, it’s the right thing to do. And this isn’t the only positive impact of television. Even though the average person will spend over 13 years of their life watching TV, there’s an upside. Television is one of the cheapest, most widely available mediums on the planet. Its ability to reach people from all geographic, racial, economic, and educational backgrounds is unprecedented. Whether you drive a new BMW or take the bus, television can be the great equalizer. Take a look at how TV makes the world a better place. Cultural Awareness Many of us can’t afford to travel abroad, and a large number of people rarely venture beyond their hometown. Television offers a way to learn about the wider world without ever having to leave the sofa. From shows targeted at educating viewers, like “Rick Steve’s Europe” to entertaining fantasy escapes like “Beachfront Bargain Hunt,” TV makes it possible to vicariously experience different cultures. Documentaries expose us to different lifestyles we might never come across in our everyday lives. Whether it’s understanding the real-life struggles of women in prison or learning about the history of Appalachia, television is a window into what’s happening beyond our front doors. In a world that’s trying hard to become more compassionate, understanding, and tolerant, these glimpses into the daily lives of others add to our cultural understanding. Understanding Politics A “Positive News” article reported that “55 percent of 18-24 year-olds said they learned about politics from legal and government-themed dramas.” It seems that there’s more to binge-watching “House of Cards” than catching up on Frank Underwood’s (Kevin Spacey) latest back-handed deal. Thanks to compelling political dramas and humor-charged commentary on shows like “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” a new generation is getting their political education from television. And candidates understand the power of TV. When Bill Clinton first played his sax on “The Tonight Show,” no one knew how important such appearances would become for future presidential hopefuls. A whole slew of Americans who would never read political stories in the paper or take the time to stop by a political rally or debate will tune in to politics veiled as entertainment. Say what you will about the evils of television, it’s still the best way to reach the average, American voter. Relieving Stress But all of television is not to expand our minds or broaden our world view. Many of us need a way to unwind and turn off the endless swirl of worries circling our brains. Mindless television is a perfect way to tune out. It doesn’t matter if your guilty pleasure is Lifetime Movies or “The Bachelor,” some shows are designed for nothing but pure entertainment. Our world is non-stop and living at such a hectic pace shows up in our health and quality of life. Finding ways to slow down, relax, and alleviate stress is crucial to improving overall wellness and simply enjoying life. And TV is a perfect fit when it comes to settling down and kicking back for an hour. It’s also a great way to spend time with friends and family. Sharing a show is a fantastic way to bolster connections and schedule time to be together. However, all things are best in moderation and TV is no exception. If you plant yourself in front of the small screen for too long you’ll start to turn those positive, relaxing effects into stagnant health threats. If you’ve been feeling guilty about tuning in to your favorite show or taking a little TV break every now and then, stop. Thanks to “Sesame Street” there is tangible evidence that television isn’t always the big time-stealing, brain-numbing evil we hear so much about. In fact, it might just make you smarter, more culturally aware, and a whole lot more relaxed. So grab that remote, find a cozy place to sit, and enjoy an hour of TV tonight completely guilt-free.

About the Author

Rebecca Edwards is a pop culture junkie who loves watching, reading about and riffing on her TV addiction du jour. She has been a writer for over two decades. Her current TV obsessions include "Shameless," "True Detective" and "American Horror Story."

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