Whether television is an “idiot box” or not, or whether it can be called so, depends on the purpose it serves for us. Usually, we associate television with entertainment, and as the general opinion goes, it has more adverse impact on our (especially children’s) studies and health.
Now let’s compare television with a source of modern learning tool, the internet. Studies have shown that parents are more comfortable with their children using internet than they are with them using the television, due to the latter’s “idiot box” image.
But we need to dig a bit deeper, and do away with the superficial cloaks of both of the sources of “edutainement” to understand why television is more than an “idiot box”. Yes, I called the television, a source of edutainment, because it educates along with entertaining us. And similarly, but not so similarly, internet entertains along with educating. Now, you must be wondering what the difference between the two is.
The difference is the hidden purpose of the two. While parents prefer to provide their children with the access of internet thinking that they are using it as a means of education, they are wrong. Because as soon as children get hold of it, a large number of other things appeal them more than the use of internet for science and math. Let’s not forget that the maximum number of Facebook users are teenagers, or the ones in their 20s.
Now coming straight to the answer of your question, television, educates us in the similar way our traditional, oral culture educates us, that is, in values and humanity. These two things are what even modern and fancy schools are not teaching these days. Remember how much children used to love Malgudi Days in older times? And the Stories of Rabindranath Tagore on Epic used to be the best thing on television just a year back.
Popular cartoons with subtitles helped many children get the lessons in conversational English and Ramayana and Mahabharata telecasts kept them acquainted with Indian mythological stories and culture. Even the advertisements were so heart-touching and inspiring. They still are.
These are the instances when television is not an idiot box, in fact, it is even better than other means of “edutainment”.