Moms, Media, Mayhem, and Future RewardJan 09, 2013
Today's parents are not the first to grapple with media use but they are the first ones to deal with the massive increase in media availability. It's not just a TV in one room in the house anymore. By age three, one third of children in the U.S. have a television in their room. Videos can be watched in the car, at the grocery store and just about any other time.
Parents are busy and looking for a peaceful few minutes to get something done. It's pretty easy to rely on a machine to entertain and sooth a restless child. To not go this route, you really have to be convinced that it can harm your child.
The American Pediatrics Association has looked at the research and offered their recommendations. From their site as recently as Nov. 30, 2012, they recommend that children less than two years old be sheltered from media. For proper brain development, they need positive interaction with adults and with other children. They need unstructured play time to explore their world.
Just like the parent is looking for a little peace, the child's brain would like a beak from the four hour average daily exposure to background television. This number increases up to six hours in the poorest families. This practice is associated with mood problems, sleep disturbance, weight gain learning difficulties, ADHD, and sleep disturbance. Some of the impacts will not be readily apparent until age seven when school requires more attention.
In order for children to learn to entertain themselves and to hear their own inner voice, they need a break from being bombarded by images. Dr. Dimitri A Christakis was the lead researcher in a major study concerning the effects of television on young children. He warns that media may overstimulate a child's brain and cause permanent damage to neural pathways that are developing between birth and three years of age.
Despite all of this research and warnings, it's easy to let the desire for a break from parenting duties lead to a little television and then a little more. Christakis found that for every daily hour watched by a child from eighteen monthes to three years of age there was a corresponding ten percent higher chance of being diagnosed with ADHD by age seven. The poor child who watches five hours of television a day is therefore at a 50% increased risk Thirty-six percent of families leave television on all the time. You do the math.
Television is not the only media parents have to monitor these days. Every time I hear the statistics on ADHD, they seem to be rising. Peaks follow a pattern that reflects the advent of children's television, computers, VCR's and the rest.
Media is here to stay and here to expand. Every parent has to make difficult choices about how it will be used in their home and within their sphere of influence. Giving children something better to do is what is needed. They also need your time and attention. But parents do need a break.
As the Exercising Values products expand, I will always be thinking through your needs and these concerns. I welcome your feedback because like you I'm trying to figure out what amount and type of media is in children's best interest. The Exercising Values program is about live interaction between parent and child that they can count on each day. That said, I have heard your interest in having something for your children to do so you could go into the bathroom alone or maybe take an important phone call.
Currently, you can get tapes of great literature for your child to listen to with you or alone. This is still a break for you but it allows the child to imagine the story unfolding in their minds. We will use the technology to produce DVDs so parents can learn the correct form for the exercises in the program. If your child were ever to look at these it would at least be encouraging them to get up and try the exercise rather than just sitting.
My experience in raising six children is that if you put the time and focus in when they are young, you will reap happy, healthy well adjusted children that will make life a joy in every possible way. Believe that the little choices you make each day matter and over time you will be drawing out the potential your children were born with. You are doing the most important job in the world and what you choose to do today matters.
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