Duly Noted

From my Drafts archive: 5 April 07

So I’m reading this book–The Plug-in Drug: Television, computers and family life the self-acclaimed landmark book about how children get hooked on TV) by Marie Winn. It’s got a lot of great stuff in it. It really is a must read for parents.

She’s a bit of an extremist & sometimes sort of twists the data to support her themes, but again–it really is great info.

An example of the twisting:…Valuable confirmation of the negative link between school achievement and viewing activities. Children who got good grades in school spend 4 hours and 34 minutes per day at various screen activities such as TV, video, video games, movies and taped TV shows, while those who got fair to poor grades spent 5 hours and 27 minutes. Seriously? One hour is going to make that big of a difference? Why should a child be getting 4 hours of screen time anyway? Granted, I watched an hour long show tonight, and I’ve been online going on three hours now, but I’m the grown-up (neener, neener, neener).

What I wanted to focus on though was her chapter on How Parents Use Television. She opens the chapter with how parents handled children in the days before the advent of TV as babysitter.

In the long ago past, the methods of dealing with small children were not ideal, because apparently “children were beaten regularly and savagely, sometimes to within an inch of their lives.” People used to commonly “terrorize children”, and if that didn’t work to force the little angels into submission, they’d drug them with laudanum (an opiate),opium itself, or cocaine (ummm… I thought cocaine was an upper??). While some of this may be true to a small degree– I also know that giving whiskey to teething babies (or at least rubbing it on their gums), beatings and abuse are still happening in this very age of television.

She continues to make the claim that before television, modern parents (who could no longer depend on the beastly methods of our forebears) were firmer in discipline, observed their children with an eagle eye, and used nap time as both sleep time and in older children, quiet play nap, whereas today, parents can only think to plug in their children to the TV.

I must say, I am offended that Winn assumes we parents are so mindless and deprived of ideas for entertainment, and deprived of energy to employ them, that we, as a rule, make a “special and seductive effort to ‘plug them in’.”

Now I’m only human and I too need a break from my children, but to imply that all parents zombie-ize their children with television ad nauseum, and that it is akin to beatings or drugging the wee ones is ludicrous. The author herself has children and grandchildren and says that children have always shown the same indefatigable energy, curiousity, irrationality, persitence, emotional instability, and unpredictability druing their first five years of life that they exhaust us with today. It is mainly how parents deal with these difficult though normal aspects of development that has changed.

But basically–this book confirms a lot of the reasons we are not a TV family, even if the author is a bit over the top in some of her “proof”.

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