Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Even if you don't watch, second hand television can still get you

Still once again, it’s TV’s fault – and now you don’t even have to be watching it!
Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics warned that television is not only dangerous to early child development, but by merely having the TV turned on could result in problems.
Some experts are calling it “secondhand television.”  Likened to the hazards of secondhand cigarette smoke, when a TV is turned on when a child is playing nearby, his or her language development is affected, they say.  A child won’t develop a working vocabulary necessary for school because the television will keep children and parents from interacting.
But think about it.  Isn’t that the whole idea of putting the TV on in the first place?  Try getting anything done with a toddler nipping at your ankles!  You have to wonder if the members of the American Academy of Pediatrics have ever really spent an extended amount of time around the preschool set. Next time they want to release a study, let’s release Happy Hoppers Kiddie Care on them and see how much studying they get done.
And just try listening to the intricate, intellectual dialogue between sports casters with a toddler talking your ear off.  If I had a dime for every “Daddy can’t hear, darling,” I’ve uttered, I’d have me a 57 inch widescreen LCD digital TV in the bathroom.
Televisions, like computers, smart phones, hand-held video game devices – screen technology – have become essential childrearing tools.  Why else would Barney DVDs have the wonderful option of continuous play?  Or why are there these delightfully mesmerizing, parent soothing cable stations like PBSKids Sprout or Noggin-Nick Jr. that run nonstop kid fare?  And how else can a bone-weary mommy or debilitated dad tune their little prodigy into a Baby Einstein than the use of a DVD and the glorious TV? 
Let’s be honest, older generations, the only reason the TV was shut off when we were kids is that there was nothing really good on.  We had three major network channels and one blurry public service station.  If it wasn’t primetime or Saturday morning, it just wasn’t worth it.
Today television not only aids parents in raising their children, but it also plays an important role in the social, behavioral, and intellectual development of our kids.  A recent study by Common Sense Media found that kids under 8 spend twice as much time in front of screen media than they do books, either reading themselves or being read to.  The study further found that 40% or two to four year olds and over 50% or five to eight year olds use smart phones, iPads, and the like. 
If today’s technology is changing the way we process information they way experts contend it is, what parent would want his children still thumbing pages of antiquated books when they could be touching screens of tablets like the other kids?  What respectable parent says to a child, “If you have one good friend in your life, that’s a lot,” when they kid swinging next to him on the playground will have no less than 65,800 friends of social media sites?  What parent wants his kid to think of apples and blackberries and ice cream sandwiches as something to eat? 
Whether we like it or not, technological advances are going to change the way we process information, they way we parent, and it will mandate greater screen time for us and our kids.  We must remember, though, that technology is essentially neutral.  We are the ones who put it in gear.  Let’s focus on teaching and modeling constructive use of screen technology so.  Remember, if it wasn’t for TV, you would never remember where you were the moment Fonzie jumped the shark.

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