Parenting Today: The World Has Changed, Have We?
Once upon a time in 1980 there was a 30-year-old woman, pregnant for the first time. So filled with blissful anticipation, this determined mom-to-be set out to discover what would be best for her baby. She had no problem finding information on breast-feeding, sleeping through the night, introducing solids or the environmental realities of cloth vs. disposable diapers. But when she looked for what would be best for baby’s brain development, she couldn’t find anything in the mainstream.
I was that mom. With no Internet, my research meant going back and forth to the university library, copying journal articles and distributing them to my women friends and colleagues at work—obnoxious in my enthusiasm, waving the research in their faces, saying, “Look at this! Can you believe it?”
I was stunned to find out, for instance, that the daily four hours U.S. kids spend in front of a television prevented proper growth of crucial neural circuitry, limiting their cognitive capacities for the rest of their lives. I was amazed to discover that the verdict on TV violence had been conclusive since 1976: violent images do contribute to aggressive behaviors, fear, and desensitization to real violence, creating a condition for an appetite for more and more violence in entertainment and in one’s environment.
Over the years this research backed me up to make course corrections as I parented two rambunctious sons. For example, around 1985 Mr. Rogers started appearing twice a day—in the morning and in the afternoon. As a single working mother, I was so tempted to let my then five and three year-old boys visit the “neighborhood” both times. But I resisted. Their creative play was more important for their budding brains, and a once-a-day visit with Mr. R was plenty.
In 1986 those “new fangled” videos meant I could actually play a full-length feature film in my own family room. Outrageous! Imagine two whole hours to get work done around the house or just sit and stare into space with a cup of tea, uninterrupted. Luckily, the research prevented me from over-dosing on these “new” inventions—sometimes. The two-hour video was a godsend before company came and I scrambled to get all together at the last minute; when I had the flu or had office work to complete at home—mom’s screen nanny to the rescue.
But, let’s face it, back then my screen-machine temptations were nothing compared to what seduces parents in 2008: screens in SUVs; hand-held video games; “Mozart and Einstein videos” being pushed as good for infants; numerous choices in children’s programming, videos and DVDs; computers designed specifically for teens; social networking sites that attract middle-school kids so they can belong to their peer group and “be cool,” video games in restaurants, malls, theaters and anywhere families gather. Has the small screen finally conquered?
Copyright © Gloria DeGaetano, 2009. All rights reserved. No reprinting rights granted without the author’s permission.
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