A repost of a beautifully written post about growing up without TV from the blog We Canoe.
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.”
via: Gamer Therapist
Drug addiction, addiction to gambling, and food and video games and TV, all have dopamine as the common denominator:
“The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a psychoactive drug, a monetary reward, a sexual encounter, or a satisfying meal. In the brain, pleasure has a distinct signature: the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of nerve cells lying underneath the cerebral cortex (see illustration). Dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens is so consistently tied with pleasure that neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain’s pleasure center.
All drugs of abuse, from nicotine to heroin, cause a particularly powerful surge of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. The likelihood that the use of a drug or participation in a rewarding activity will lead to addiction is directly linked to the speed with which it promotes dopamine release, the intensity of that release, and the reliability of that release.”
Neuro Research Project has a very interesting post on risk-taking, dopamine, and Dr. Christakis’s mouse study.
Note Neuro Research Project ‘s post is based on Dr. Sheikh Arshad Saeed‘s ideas:
This TEDx video (Media and Children), by Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician, parent, and researcher, shows young mice taking risks after being exposed to TV, 6 hours a day, for 42 days. The mice continued to take more (potentially life threatening) risks the longer they were exposed to TV.
Long term exposure to specific types of media, especially in young developing brains, appears to corrupt the reward system; fewer dopamine receptors. Over-stimulation from media may produce the same effects on the brain as drugs, i.e. heroin and cocaine. These drugs artificially extracts more dopamine from nerve cells in the brain, requiring more to get high or satisfied over time. An abundance of dopamine, due to a low density of dopamine receptors, appears to lead to unhealthy risk-taking. Risk-taking comes in…
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Until now, animal studies have never been done on the effects of television. I guess for the obvious reason that animals just aren’t interested in watching TV. This has been a huge disadvantage as animal studies have been essential for establishing that a whole host of things, from abuse, to cigarettes, to lead poisoning, to malnutrition are all bad for the developing brain.
But then, Dr. Dimitri Christakis made a brilliant leap, and thought why not look at the effects of background TV on young mice. Since 2008 a handful of studies have shown that even background TV has at least short-term negative effect on young children. But what about the long term effects of background TV? It would be unethical to do experiments on young human children looking the effects of large amounts of background TV throughout their early years. And yet, in real life there is a substantial subset of young children who are being exposed to 4 to 8 hours of background TV every day.
Correlational studies and longitudinal studies have found that children exposed to large amounts of television do worse academically, emotionally and academically. But critics have dismissed these studies as not taking into proper consideration other potential causes (such as poor parenting and/or genetics), with large TV exposure being a symptom rather than a cause.
A mouse study has the potential to discover exactly what the effects are background TV really are and prove that these effects are caused by background TV and not by something else.
So what did Dr. Christakis and his mouse study actually find out?
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.”