A recent article in the American Newsweek was recently brought to my attention and I found it really quite disturbing. One part however, that really jumped out at me was the part that claims that:
“New brain scan technology shows that our brains are being rewired. Heavy TV and Web users have fundamentally altered prefrontal cortexes. The brains of TV and Web addicts, it turns out, look like the brains of drug and alcohol addicts. Even worse, Chinese researchers have shown that our grey matter—the part of the brain responsible for processing of speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory, and other information—is shrinking or atrophying.”
Since our kids were born, Ryan and I have limited their exposure to computers and television. We read a disturbing book when I was pregnant about the detrimental effect of TV on young children, and it led us to be very strict about it’s use in our house.
However, it is very easy to put the TV on for the kids, because it keeps them quiet. When they are watching TV they are not fighting and running around making a mess, which is the thing that drives parents up the wall the most. However, if we really understood how destructive it was to their brain development, would we still choose it?
It’s like smoking. We all know that smoking is bad for our bodies, but yet many people still choose to smoke. They may know intellectually that it is bad, but until they experience that “A HA” moment, they can never truly understand. I gave up smoking when I started to run to get fit. I’ll never forget the burning feeling in my lungs, and the phlegm I used to cough up during and after my run. I had never felt the effects of smoking until that point, but after that I couldn’t ignore it. It was easy to give up.
It’s the same with TV. Because the damage is so gradual and invisible to the naked eye, we’re either not aware of it or choose to ignore it. But the research is very depressing. Children are spending up to seven hours a day in front of the television. It’s programming their brains to process at much faster rate, which is inconsistent with reality. They are like drug addicts. Normal activities seem boring, because they are so used to being entertained. Just like a cocaine addict needs a fix to feel the artificial high obtained from the drug, so do our kids need the high they get from being entertained by television.
So with this new understanding, what should you do? Well you have three options:
- Withdrawal. You just “Go Amish,” turn the TV off altogether and implement a complete ban.
- Immersion. You shrug your shoulders, give up, and keep marching with the lemmings right over the cliff.
- Moderation. You become intentional about your kids’ TV time, understanding that it’s a double-edged sword.
Practice being mindful. Yes the kids will fight, make a mess and all of those other things that kids do. But that’s exactly the point, that’s what kids do. Maybe if we all tried to try to embrace it a little more, we wouldn’t need to rely on the television so much.