Just as we should take good care of our bodies, obeying the laws of chemistry, physics, biochemistry, genetics, physiology and evolution which govern our bodies’ proper and healthy function, so also should be obey the laws of logic and psychology (and the laws which affect our brain function) which govern our minds’ proper and healthy function.
Cornelia Lockitch, of Guide Your Child Parenting Resources (email: Info@GuideYourChild.com), touches on this issue in her latest newsletter (March 5, 2009, Vol. III, Issue 4, ISSN 1942-4329). In “Don’t Feed Their Minds Junk Food,” Mrs. Lockitch says:
I know a mother whose 5-year-old and 18-month-old have never eaten a french fry. “It would never occur to me to give them one,” she says as she opens the container of organic veggie crisps that is their snack.
And yet these same children are thoroughly familiar with the latest animated movies, from Disney to Pixar. They have a full selection of spin-off, branded toys. Even the not-yet 2-year-old has the stamina to sit through a full-length feature film, something that is only achieved at that age with much practice.
This mom is not atypical in that she puts a lot of thought and care into what she feeds her children. She wants them to be as physically healthy as they possibly can. She wants them to develop good eating habits. Yet she feeds their minds junk food on a regular basis.
It’s not the content that’s the problem. (I enjoy Pixar movies as much as anyone else.) It’s that routine, extended screen time is not beneficial–indeed is likely harmful–to young children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommends that children not watch TV for their first two years. Nevertheless, it is commonplace in today’s culture for children to spend an hour or more on a daily basis in front of the TV, children as young as 6 months old. Many parents believe that screen time is no big deal, especially if it’s “educational.” Parents fail to realize that what’s objectionable is the medium itself.
(If you’re interested in recent scientific research on the subject, you might check out the works of Jane Healy, such as her acclaimed book Endangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think And What We Can Do About It as well as Your Child’s Growing Mind: Brain Development and Learning From Birth to Adolescence.)
Parents use the TV or computer to give themselves a break from the constant demands of a toddler, or to make supper in peace and quiet. “How else am I supposed to get a meal on the table?” they wonder.
I’ve had the privilege of teaching a few remarkable children who possess a deep love of reading, a vivid imagination, and an active-mindedness that sets them apart–and they have in common the fact that they watched little or no TV until about age 6. These are in contrast with the many, many other students who, exposed to the usual amount of TV, struggle to see a challenging task through to the end, engage in intelligent conversations, or follow a story that’s written in higher-level English.
© 2009 GYC Parenting Resources. All rights reserved.