Overexposure and unsupervised access to Hindi channels, especially cartoon channels, have far-reaching impacts on children and may slow or even impede their physical as well as cognitive development, experts say. Most children get exposed to Hindi cartoons of unregulated contents at an early age, although too much screen-time can interfere with activities important in their formative years, including developing cognitive abilities and learning their mother language properly through social interaction. A recent study reveals that almost 66% of the children, surveyed by researcher Aminul Islam Sujon, use a mix of Hindi and Bangla words while speaking, and concludes that exposure to different languages during preschool years can cause confusion in children while delaying proper acquisition of mother tongue.
‘Both my son and daughter are great fans of cartoons and some of the serials aired in Hindi channels. Sometimes their level of understanding and fluency in Hindi surprise me,’ said Masudur Rahman, a parent who thinks there’s nothing disturbing about children learning Hindi.
However, experts are increasingly skeptical of the general preference for Hindi and English contents over Bangla in the urban households, which they think may be detrimental to a child’s growth and runs counter to the spirits of the language movement.
They believe the negative impacts of Hindi channels on children’s language and behaviours cannot be counteracted fully unless parents act more wisely, especially in setting viewing limits for their children to ensure they don’t spend too much time in front of television.
‘The effects of Hindi channels are purely negative,’ said educationist Serajul Islam Choudhury, also an emeritus professor at the University of Dhaka. ‘I think there should be a constructive alternative to these cartoon channels. Local channels can come up with more informative and educational shows and children-specific entertainment programmes.’
There are nearly 30 channels in Bangladesh but most of them do not have quality children’s programmes except for a few including Sisimpur, Meena, and Moner Kotha; as a result, children often watch cartoons aired in Indian satellite channels.
In 2013, lawmaker Shahriar Alam demanded a ban on the airing of popular cartoon series Doraemon, arguing that television stations should air foreign cartoons after dubbing them in Bangla.
The demand was followed by a ban on three channels – Disney, Disney XD and Pogo – and also directives to Bangladeshi channels to dub Hindi programmes in Bangla. The ban, however, has proved ineffective because of other Hindi channels running the programmes.
Aminul Islam Sujon, who conducted the study on the impact of Hindi channels and cartoons on children, titled Hindi TV Channels O Shishuder Bhasha, shows what happens to children when they are exposed to Hindi channels for an average of two hours a day.
It is common for parents to use Hindi channels and videos as a substitute babysitter, Sujon says, but prolonged exposure to their contents lead the children to unconsciously learn Hindi phrases and sentences. ‘Though they never fully learn Hindi, and most of them ultimately give up using Hindi words and phrases, they suffer from a linguistic inbetweenness,’ said Sujon.
Children’s advocates say foreign-language cartoons, designed specifically for a foreign audience, are often locally incompatible and can expose the children to influences and behaviours not appropriate in this society.
‘Since children have access to different television channels, they will watch whatever they love to. It is our duty to put television to good use, and provide them with healthy alternatives,’ said eminent artist Mostafa Monowar, who played a key role in producing a number of children’s programmes for BTV including the acclaimed Meena cartoon series.
The veteran artist, however, ruled out the idea of a ban on Hindi channels. He thinks local channels can collaborate among themselves to produce cartoon series and puppet shows to reduce the burden of production costs. ‘Children’s programmes on science, math, history and other subjects can be another way to both entertain and educate them.’
The local TV channel owners and programme-selectors also think that children’s entertainment deserves high priority. ‘It is true that there are not enough programmes for children. I think we should make more programmes designed specifically for them,’ said Faridur Reza Sagor, managing director of Channel i.
Meanwhile, information minister Hasanul Haque Inu expressed ‘deep concern’ over the lack of locally-produced children programmes. ‘We are seriously concerned about that but at present, we cannot directly intervene or insist private channels to make more children’s programmes,’ said Inu, adding that the national broadcasting commission can do it once the broadcast act is enacted.
As to the airing of banned programmes through channels that are in operation, the minister said his ministry would monitor COAB’s (Cable Operators’ Association Bangladesh) activities and take actions accordingly.
Source: New Age