TV & Video Games = Serious Learning Issues (Post #2)

So what is the big deal? Kids watch a lot of TV these days, so what? As I mentioned right off bat in Post #1, even I watch a lot of TV and spend a whack of time on my laptop but children are different in one very important way. A child”s brain is a very precious thing. It is not like the leathery old piece of grey matter adults have between their ears. A young persons brain is a malleable, growing and developing organ right up to the early twenties. This is why it is imperative that young people take care of this marvel of fatty tissue and why we as parents need to do our best to safe guard it.

In recent years, researchers have discovered that what happens to the brain in a persons first twenty years can remain into adulthood. The term hardwiring of the brain has been used to describe what happens to the neural pathways as a child cognitively develops. Simply put, your brain learns to function in response to the environment it is placed. Those who read and write, will be hardwired to read and write. Those who watch TV and play video games will be hardwired to watch TV and play video games.

The difference between these two brains is best looked at by measuring the different states they are in.  Researchers can determine the brains state or operating level by measuring the waves being emitted. A brain that is reading or writing emits beta waves and indicate that the brain is active and concentrating on something. A brain that is watching TV or playing video games quickly slips into a passive state, indicated by Alpha waves. This state is referred to as light meditation or a day dreaming. It doesn’t take much to realize, that if you want your child to do well at school, you want their brain to be hardwired to operate in a beta state.

The evidence showing that excessive time watching television, playing video games and sitting in front of a computer can have serious effects on a child”s cognitive development. Although you won”t be able to find many researchers who will make definitive statements about its effects, the research is hard to ignore and should be heeded. From a simply practical standpoint it makes sense to limit your child”s time in front of the glowing box and it is best if you start this regulation early in a child”s life. Here are some practical ideas taken from our own life that you might want to implement. They are obvious but relevant.

  • Limit the number of Televisions in the house. The American average is 2.75 TV”s per household. It stands to reason that the more TV”s there are in the house, the more watching there will be.
  • DO NOT put a TV in your child”s room. This will provide your child with almost unlimited TV time without supervision.
  • Limit time on TV, video games or computer. My wife and I simply have a no TV on school days rule and there is not waffling. The kids can read, draw, play outside but there is no TV.
  • Limit your own time on TV, lead by example. If you are not watching then it stands to reason that your child probably won”t watch.
  • Don”t give into the pressure to buy a gaming system, it is not necessary to have one in your home and if you do limit the amount of time your children have access to it. One of my colleagues just bought a Wii but only allows his kids to use it for two hours a week.
  • Get your kids active. If your kids are not in the house then they won”t be watching TV. There are any number of opportunities out there for kids. Sports, scouts, music, art… The list is long.
  • If you insist on letting your child stare into the glowing box get them to be producers of the media which it dispenses rather than passive users. Have them use the technology at their disposal to create rather than consume.

I realize that much of this post is just common sense but it is an issue ignored by far too many. What is most significant about this post is what I has left out. This post only scratches the surface of this huge issue of children and electronic media consumption. It is imperative that  parents  learn more about the issue so that we can safeguard our children’s ability to become an functional adult.

I have included links to more information and websites which you can use to educate yourself about the issues at hand. Please find the links below.

Research

Article 1

Does TV Make You Smarter?

Stuart Shanker Interview on TVO parents

Websites

Media Family Media Education Foundation

Media Awareness Network

Online Magazine

Television Addiction

More Games Less Brain

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