This chapter is subtitled, “Watching Your Child Watching The Television”. The author starts out by stating whilst people make a big deal about WHAT a child watches on television, sometimes the most overlooked point is the process of watching and what this does. The reason the “process of watching” is important is because it displaces other activities such as being outside, playing, reading books, conversation, artistic experiences.
“Time and again, parents describe their children watching TV as ‘zombie-like’, ‘passive’, ‘stupified’, ‘mesmerized’, ‘totally absorbed but not interested’, ‘tranquilized’, and ‘hypnotized.’ The exceptions were children watching short programmes with their parents, when there were frequent interruptions by questions and conversations about what was going on. Even then, parents observed how quickly their children lapsed into the ‘TV trance-state’ of just watching.” – page 17
Parents often say watching a screen is “relaxing” for their child but also describe the burst of energy, tantrums, edginess, nervousness that occur after the screen time is done. I think it is always worth observing your own child to see “how” they watch – and what happens when it is turned off. Are they able to go and play well on their own? Are they calm and happy? Or not?
There is a box on page 19 regarding “Guidelines for Evaluating Children’s TV” , including looking at the news, languague, advertising, social skills, comprehension level, and then the suggestion to watch the screen with your child and see if you like what you see. The author also writes about “Trying the Technical Events Test”, which is very interesting and looks at the technical events it takes to make even a 30 second advertisement. He ends the chapter talking about screens and addiction.
He remarks that TV can be easily used as an electronic baby-sitter and that sometimes parents see the effects of screens on their children but fail to follow through and set limits on the screens. His other comment that “the electronic media are extremely powerful, geared to keeping your attention even if you’re not especially interested – so young children need you to switch off the television, and older children also need help with developing their capacity to choose to switch off.” (page 31), really resonated with me.
How much more pertinent is this chapter today with so many children walking around with television/movie access on their phones? Children and teenagers need our help in setting limits on this powerful medium. Here is an article from Forbes about teen Internet addiction and the cycle of academic burnout and depression. Teenage boys are most likely to be affected. According to the article, the most critical time to address Internet addiction and usage is between the ages of 13-15. So do your teen a favor and set some boundaries!
More to come in later chapters….