Screen Free Week 2014
CCFC had another excellent screen turn-off week May 5-11, 2014.
The emphasis was on families going screen free for a week (or at least going low-screen for a week).
My favorite write-up was by Traci McGrath. She described how her children have already gone low-TV, watching only about 1 hour per day, and how she was dreading losing that hour per day of uninterrupted time to get things done. But as it happened, things turned out much better than she anticipated:
“I try to make it a habit not to ‘entertain’ the kids all the time. I believe in giving them lots of opportunities to solve their own boredom with creativity – but during Screen Free Week, I hardly had the opportunity to push this little soap box of mine at all. They were so tapped into their own creativity, they were no longer coming to me to ask me what they could do, and they completely forgot to ask if they could “watch a show” (a question I’m used to fielding 2 or 3 times a day.) We still made a point to play together, but it was almost always the case that I was simply invited in to join a game they had invented or go on a scavenger hunt they had created.”
As Linda Wasmer Andrews points out in her excellent article “How Background TV Undermines Well-Being”, there are two main ways that background TV is bad for you, it makes it harder to communicate, and it makes it harder to concentrate.
Harder to Communication
The importance of parents and caregivers talking to, and interacting with their young children has been well documented:
“After four years these differences in parent-child interactions produced significant discrepancies in not only children’s knowledge, but also their skills and experiences with children from high-income families being exposed to 30 million more words than children from families on welfare. Follow-up studies showed that these differences in language and interaction experiences have lasting effects on a child’s performance later in life.”
And it turns out that background TV reduces and interferes with these all important interactions:
“A new study looks for the first time at the effect of background TV on interactions between parents and young children. Using an experimental design, researchers found that when a TV was on, both the quantity and quality of interactions between parents and children dropped. This study challenges the common assumption that background TV doesn’t affect very young children if they don’t look at the screen.”
“For every hour in front of the TV, parents spoke 770 fewer words to children, according to a study of 329 children, ages 2 months to 4 years, in the June issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Adults usually speak about 941 words an hour… Parents may not realize how little they interact with children when a TV is on, Christakis says. A mother may think she’s engaged with a baby because they’re both on the floor playing blocks. But if a TV is on in the background, the two of them talk much less, he says.”
“These findings suggest that TV co-viewing produces a relatively detrimental communication environment for young children, while shared book reading encourages effective mother–child exchanges.”
The standard formula for books on kids, the media, culture, etc. is to describe various studies and to illustrate with real-life stories. This is actually a pretty good formula and was what I was expecting when I started reading “Raising Generation Tech: Preparing Your Children for a Media-Fueled World”. Instead, the author, Jim Taylor does things a little differently. Yes he does go over some of the new research and yes he includes some real life anecdotes, but what stood out for me was his philosophical take on the storied relationship between children, media and family.
As someone who has read extensively on how media is affecting both children and adults, I wasn’t expecting anything particularly new. But you can tell Dr. Taylor has thought about this deeply and has found some new, very interesting ways of looking at these media issues. For example:
Dr. Laura Markham has an excellent overview of the effects of TV, and why parents should limit, or even get rid of the TV.
Why TV Undermines Academics & Values
A sample from her article:
You recommend that kids don’t watch much, if any, TV. Why?
Because TV is addictive, and like all addictions, it has a high cost that we usually avoid acknowledging. Research shows that people who don’t watch TV are happier and healthier, have better self-esteem, and are less fearful.
Females who don’t watch TV have a healthier body image. This is all even more true for kids, because TV has a bigger impact on them. Not surprisingly, families who watch less TV are closer, and kids who see less TV become sexually active at a later age.
But let’s start with reading. We know that kids who love to read do better in school. Virtually all parents say they want their children to love reading, but most kids stop reading books that aren’t assigned in school by middle school. Only 28 percent of eighth graders score at or above the proficiency level in reading; in fact, only two percent of them read at an advanced level. What happens?
TV and reading are linked: Research shows that the more TV kids watch before the age of eight, the less they read after the age of eight. Of course, that’s a correlation, so it doesn’t prove that one leads to the other, but most researchers are convinced. If you want your children to be readers, don’t let them get addicted to TV and videos. Time spent on the one activity precludes the other. And once kids develop the habit of TV, they are less likely to seek out books of their own accord. Books — which are more work — just can’t compete with the lure of the screen.
I really like her question and answer format, some of the other questions are:
Walt Disney is a multi-billion dollar mega-corporation, and according to Wikipedia “It is the largest media conglomerate in the world in terms of revenue.” Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), on the other hand, is a tiny multi-thousand dollar non-profit who took on Walt Disney… and won.
“Parent alert: the Walt Disney Company is now offering refunds for all those “Baby Einstein” videos that did not make children into geniuses. They may have been a great electronic baby sitter, but the unusual refunds appear to be a tacit admission that they did not increase infant intellect. “We see it as an acknowledgment by the leading baby video company that baby videos are not educational, and we hope other baby media companies will follow suit by offering refunds,” said Susan Linn, director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which has been pushing the issue for years.
And it didn’t take long for Disney to take it’s revenge: