An intelligent alternative to the idiot-box

I am not exactly a TV buff. In fact, I hardly watch TV.
Written by ZDNet Staff, Contributor

I am not exactly a TV buff. In fact, I hardly watch TV. But, when my television conked-off last month, I was the most distraught figure in the family. Perhaps it was the sounds from the TV room that used to comfort me (in some way).

I badly missed the entertainment that TV provided...and that's what got me hooked on YouTube. It's got all these beautiful old Hindi film songs, old Hindi movies (though you have to get used to viewing it in parts), all my favorite rock music videos, my all-time favorite Hollywood flicks--there was so much I could watch on my laptop.

My television viewing consumed not more than two hours a week, and that's restricted to watching the news at 9pm. When my TV died, I realized I could watch news channels live on my computer screen and my news viewing also increased quite a bit.

The absence of the TV drew my attention to all the content that was available on the Internet. For instance, if your child is weak in physics, YouTube can supplement his/her classroom learning quite effectively. Let's suppose it's the Archimedes' Principle that your child can't understand. Just type Archimedes' Principle in the search tab and you will find lots of videos that explain this law.

When I was a child, television was taboo. We were only allowed to watch TV once we had finished our homework; and not beyond 9pm in any case. TV, we were told, is meant for idiots.

There was not much to watch anyway. Government-run Doordarshan used to telecast Krishi Darshan--a program for farmers--in the evenings, and school educational programs that were telecast during the day were very boring. But, that's not the case today. Many of the educational videos on YouTube are well-made, and fun to watch.

It's time the Indian education system learnt to exploit the Internet as a platform for educating the masses. While children in cities would have access to computers, it's their peers in small towns and villages who need laptops. In fact, even mobile phones with a large screen and high-speed Internet connectivity can serve the purpose.

Social networking Web sites can be an extension of the classroom, where classmates and teachers can clear doubts, point their classmates to new links and Web sites, post educational videos, and refer friends who can offer help to those who are weak in some subjects.

Once they have access to the Internet, children (from even the most backward areas of the country) will pick up concepts very fast. They will also learn the English language. Their laptop can be their window to the world. At a macro level, the country will have a smarter and well-educated young population.

Well, I never expected the absence of the "idiot-box" would make me think about such macro, socio-economic issues confronting the nation. BTW, I have acquired a new TV and my TV viewing is back to two hours a week. Surprisingly, though, I don't go hunting for entertainment on YouTube any longer. I wonder if there is a connection between the idiot-box and its intelligent, new-generation cousin.

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