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The Perils of Screen Time

The Perils of Screen Time

While growing up, there were literally no restrictions on television in our house. My mother, as a hard-working single parent, loved TV and grew to appreciate how much of a companion it was to her two children. In my memory, the TV was rarely off, and much of our evening was charted out by the chronicle of what the TV was offering. When home video and home video gaming became accessible, we got a VCR and an Atari gaming system. We alternated between video football and Battlestar Galactica and knew it was time to get to bed once the 11PM news anchors took over the screen with their talk of death and mayhem. Whether there is a connection or not, academic achievement became difficult for my sister and me, and I am fairly confident that our serial TV watching didn’t help matters.

While I am not willing to draw a serious conclusion between substandard academic performance and near-fanatical and continual TV viewing, it seems there are others that are much more willing than myself. In a study from Iowa State University, 6 to 12-year olds who spent more than two hours a day playing video games or watching TV had trouble paying attention in school. The same study surveyed teachers and parents about kids’ screen habits and discovered that heavy screen timers were nearly twice as likely to have above average attention deficit problems (not exactly a surprise, but validation for many who have been casually making the connection for years).

But compare the typical TV fodder of the 1980s to the contemporary TV options and you will see a marked difference. The pace and frequency of images has greatly increased; with more and more information to be processed by little brains in a matter of seconds. For all that could be said about the velocity of television, contemporary video games have moved far beyond the hyper-visual. The average video game exposes the viewer/gamer to 750 million sounds and images a minute (OK, I am making this up, but trust me, it is a lot!) and essentially overloads the brain with data. It would be fair, based on the above study, to deduce that the bevy of information clogs the developing brain with enough gamer silage to make even the most basic academic tasks (even hours after the game has been switched off) a supreme challenge for most children.

Is it fair to say that the pacing of the program, whether its video games or TV is overstimulating enough to contribute to persistent attention problems for children? Is it the quality of the programming, or the quantity? Do you impose strict rules about TV, games, and online time in your home? Or, to all of the teenagers out there: have you noticed an impact (if any) that TV, video games and online time have had on your ability to focus and excel in school?

Read more: Babies, Blogs, Children, Family, Parenting at the Crossroads, Teens, Videos, , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

32 comments

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5:38PM PDT on May 30, 2012

my son only realized tv existed at 2 yrs old thanks to his dad and grandmother. before that he hadnt ever even seen a tv on. now it is a constant battle. he still loves to be outside but in the early mornings, late evenings, and on rainy days the tv seems like a must. it is frustrating

2:11AM PDT on Mar 21, 2012

My husband had an 8 yr. old son from his previous marriage that he had custody of. He had used the TV as a babysitter for way too long. The son was diagnosed with ADHD at 3 years old. Needless to say, he did NOT do well in school. If we didn't get him tutors, he probably would not have graduated at all.

TV is NOT a good babysitter!!!!

4:00PM PDT on Mar 13, 2012

Actually, the increase in information on television shows and the increased complexity of them means that TV has become far more exercise for the brain than it used to be. It is quite possible that it is too much for young children, the same way you don't want a young child trying to lift a heavy weight. But we should be glad that television has become far more sophisticated and better for you with time. However, it's still important to do things other than watch television or play computer games. Excess of almost anything tends to be bad.

10:40AM PST on Feb 25, 2012

My teacher always tell our class about the advice doctors gave him when his daughter was born. They told him that for the first two years of their lives children should have no exposure to television. While he usually followed their advice, mu teacher said that one day he had a basketball game on while he was with his daughter, and she was so transfixed with the tv and looked so much like a zombie that it scared him! Television provides way too much stimulation for young kids!

8:47AM PST on Feb 22, 2012

In 1962 we visited a relative on the East coast who had a television on their porch (I guess TV was an outdoor passtime). They gladly shared it with us, but when my great aunt saw that I was a bit too transfixed by it she turned it off and told me it would make me sick. I guess she was wise, but of course when it became forbidden I wanted more of it, and once our family got one I definitely overindulged in it.
In the words of Mr. Leonard Cohen:
"I'm sentimental if you know what I mean
I love the country, but I cannot stand the scene
And I'm neither left nor right
I'm just staying home tonight
Getting lost in that hopeless little screen."

10:04AM PST on Feb 21, 2012

I think there is some connections between ADHD and TV. It's a lot of stimulation between the image, sounds, and colours, and so on.

4:21PM PST on Feb 20, 2012

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-kleeman/children-and-media_b_1018147.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-kleeman/a-screen-is-a-screen-is-a_b_792742.html

12:12PM PST on Feb 20, 2012

this is completely true

9:03AM PST on Feb 20, 2012

Take a look at the book "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television" by Jerry Mander from 1978

3:20AM PST on Feb 20, 2012

Thanks.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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