What is the boob tube doing to your kids?
By John Rosemond
By John Rosemond
While winging it from Charlotte to Des Moines last month, I passed the time by reading, cover to cover, the airline magazine. In it were compelling stories about various South American destinations, including Robinson Crusoe Island off the coast of Chile, but what I found most interesting were current stats on family TV habits.
Did you know 50 percent of American households have three or more TV sets? In the average U.S. home, the television is on nearly eight hours a day. The average American watches more than four hours a day.
On average, children in the United States will spend more time this year in front of the TV (1,023 hours) than they will in school (900 hours). Six out of 10 Americans can name The Three Stooges, but fewer than two in 10 can name three sitting U.S. Supreme Court justices.
My take: It's only a matter of time before an invading force will be able to put ashore on either coast and take us over before anyone notices ... if anyone even cares. After all, the invasion will make for excellent reality television.
But my purpose in writing this column is not to predict the Apocalypse. In 1978, I began raising a voice of alarm concerning the number of hours American children were allowed to spend watching television. Since then, the afterschool activity mania has served to reduce children's average weekly TV-time, but not appreciably. I speculated that excessive TV watching (more than five hours per week), especially during the preschool and early elementary years, could actually re-wire a child's brain in ways that would interfere with the establishment of critical learning abilities, including long attention span.
Subsequent research by psychologist Jane Healey ("The Endangered Mind") and others has confirmed that excessive TV watching puts brain development at risk, increasing the likelihood of learning disabilities and behavior disorders. Confirming my initial speculation, the rapid-fire barrage of images that assault the brain of a young child who is staring at the boob tube can actually prevent the brain from wiring properly. Healey's most recent research reveals that video games and computers are having similar, if not even more, damaging effects on children's brains.
I'm looking for reports, positive or negative, from parents who have completely eliminated television and video games from their kids' lives as well as parents who never allowed them from day one. Tell me about your children's behavior in regard to discipline, learning, school and play.
E-mail answers to email@example.com. And thanks for taking the time to help me with this project. I will devote a future column to it.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his Web site, www.rosemond.com.