Come mothers and fathers throughout the land. Why do you not criticize or attempt to understand why your sons (especially, your sons) and your daughters are beyond your command? Forget TV, a new babysitter has come to toyland. The GameBoy. It seems lately that I have seen boy after boy with the little box in hand mesmerized by the images on the screen. Even in church where it seems that parents have decided that this is one way to keep the kids occupied. And quiet. By all means, quiet. Add to this the GB’s virtual cousin, the computer and its myriad spawn, the Internet, IM, email, games, etc., and there is a plethora of screens for children to lose themselves in. And TV remains.
Based on Nielsen ratings, the following information was found here. Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children:3.5. Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680. Percentage of day care centers that use TV during a typical day: 70. Percentage of parents who would like to limit their children’s TV watching: 73. Percentage of 4-6 year-olds who, when asked to choose between watching TV and spending time with their fathers, preferred television: 54. Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900 hours. Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1500.
(And from http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/family/tv_affects_child.html)
Most children plug into the world of television long before they enter school: 70% of child-care centers use TV during a typical day. In a year, the average child spends 900 hours in school and nearly 1,023 hours in front of a TV. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids in the United States watch about 4 hours of TV a day – even though the AAP guidelines say children older than 2 should watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming. And, according to the guidelines, children under age 2 should have no “screen time” (TV, DVDs or videotapes, computers, or video games) at all. (This includes Baby Einstein). During the first 2 years, a critical time for brain development, TV can get in the way of exploring, learning, and spending time interacting and playing with parents and others, which helps young children develop the skills they need to grow cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally.
Do not get me wrong or box me in as a Luddite. I still believe (I think) that Technology is good, but it must be held very gently. Very, very gently, like an asp. Pixels are no substitute for human interaction, the virtual for the real of face, feelings, and flesh. And we wonder why our youth are becoming increasingly anti-social?
And I have not yet touched upon the overwhelming violence that permeates whatever screens our children are being lost in. That subject is forthcoming.
For now, let us not be deceived by the siren song that calls from the screen. If our children are raised by the virtual, than virtual they will be. I choose to imagine another world, the one that is real, with love and pain, not found on Reality TV. It is the world of you and me, with ALL of its complexity. Selah.
Originally posted November 15, 2005