Not So Summer Reading: Set Free Childhood

I actually thought of just ditching the last part of this book and moving into something else.  We started looking at this book over the summer and there wasn’t really a lot of feedback about it, and now we are long PAST summer up here in the Northern Hemisphere!  However, I got thinking about holidays. And in that season, sometimes rhythm and normal habits go out the window.  Sometimes more media comes in as parents try to buy some time to wrap gifts without their children or do other things.  So, I thought, maybe it will still be good to finish this up and we can all remind ourselves why no media for littles and media lite for olders is preferred!

We are on Chapter 4 of “Set Free Childhood” by Martin Large, which is a great book for information in moving your family toward a media lite or media free lifestyle. This chapter talks about the actual physical hazards of screens – mainly the effects on the brain and the senses.  The chapter opens with the question, “Parents often ask, “What is the right age for my child to start watching TV or using a computer?”  This is a key question; and it is important that each and every family take the responsibility to make up its own mind, calculating their own overall “balance sheet” of the advantages and the hazards of the electronic media for their children – an assessment which reading this book will help families to reach.”

The first box of information on the next page points out the warning from the British government that mobile phone users under the age of 16 should be limiting calls for essential purposes  due to mobile phone radiation.  This was based on a study out of the University of Utah in 2001.  I looked to see if I could find any up to date information on this subject; I found a  2014 link on WebMD talking about how children and fetuses are in danger of greater health risks from wireless devices in general because the brain tissue is more absorbent, the skulls are thinner.  Other countries have passed laws or are issuing warnings about children’s use of wireless devices, including phones.

The box on the following page lists all the effects of too much exposure (although “too much exposure” is not quantified) including physical effects, social and emotional effects,  cognitive effects, and moral effects.  It was all too much to list here, but be assured the list is quite long and includes obesity, social isolation and withdrawal, less creativity and imagination, attention deficit and the inability to concentrate.

There are two main reasons that children have difficulty switching off the screens – one has to do with the way the actual image is generated on a screen, and the other has to do with what the author terms radiant repetitive light souce .  The idea that the TV is a door into the home and the brain, even if the TV is on and being watched intermittenly, is explored in this chapter as well.  The role TV plays in inducing alpha brainwaves is explored, along with the possibility that TV shuts down the left brain, leaving the right hemisphere of the brain open to incoming images.  Screens also affect the development of the eye. The sense of attention and hearing can also be dulled.  Research in Manchester, England showed a doubled incidence of listening and attention problems in children over the span of six year (1984 to 1990).  I wonder what this is like now that we are heavily into a digital age for youngsters.

Chapter 5 talks more about the physical hazards of screens and includes light research.  There are many interesting facts  in the beginning of this chapter, including studies on beans exposed to television radiation and rates of growth (the exposed beans grew into excessively tall vines with leaves two and a half to three times the size of the outdoor plants or the plants shielded from the television radiation).  Studies were also done with cancer-sensitive mice, looking at the connection between artificial light and rickets.

The rest of this chapter looks at brain integration and how that is affected by screens, childhood obesity and lack of exercise and movement disorders.  Children at the time of this book publishing (2003) were engaged in 75 percent less physical activity than they did in 1900.  This is not a surprise, and this article regarding obesity prevention  from Harvard points out that children need at least an hour a day of vigorous exercise.  As a pediatric physical therapist, I would like to see children get even more than an hour, but at least an hour is a starting point!  Remember, movement is an activator of intellectual growth!

Blessings and love,




2 thoughts on “Not So Summer Reading: Set Free Childhood

  1. Thank you for bringing this book into the limelight. I found it interesting that there was a statement form the British government about mobile phone use in under 16’s. From my observation here in the UK this information has never been ‘heard’. Also the reseach for Manchester Uni hasnt filtered in at all screens of all sorts TV Xbox ipads are used regularly in mainstream early childhood education as part of the National Curriculum. There is also another book about sreen time published by Floris books by a dutch anthro. pediatrician Edward Schoorel ‘Manageing screentime’…same subject recently published

    • Thank you so much, r stocks!
      I love Schoorel, not sure how I missed this book, so thank you for sharing. And yes, I don’t think the research over here reflects the screens required for classroom use at ever younger ages either.

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