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Quit blaming the hammer

Don't get me wrong. We limit our kids' television time. Leda, for what it's worth, has just started watching and enjoys Thomas & Friends, too. Yesterday, she clapped and bounced to some music we were playing on the CD player. She's becoming quite the little media consumer.

My son, on the other hand, loves his DVDs. And PBS Kids. He's allowed to view them from basically the time he wakes up until 6pm when the programming is taken over by mom and dad. And he gets breaks for going outside to play. And I nearly always am in the room watching tv with him. When mom and dad tried to watch the first Harry Potter movie the other day, he did not like it, was scared, and asked that it be turned off. Which we did.

I say all this because of the news yesterday--I won't link to it because there are numerous articles/versions you can Google to read about it--about background television having a negative effect on child development. And my position as psychology degree plus parent plus blogger puts me in a rather nice place to comment on media and children.

And, frankly, I think Pediatrics has it all wrong. Yes, yes, I hear one of my friends pointing out that these types of research are meant for public health, aimed at the masses of non-critical public where it's just a "good idea" to watch less tv.

I still maintain, however, a more enlightened view that, computers, video games, the local library...are just tools. Kids spending time watching tv is no different than sending a kid to the library. Computer time is just like time reading a book.

Oh, did I just offend you? Comparing the thousands of years of printed, written word to that newfangled contraption with the screen and keyboard? It's the name of the blog, get over it.

If you go to the library and spend time reading and playing in the kids section with your child it is much different than going to the library and forcing them to sit at a table in the adult fiction section with you. Point proven.

What you watch on tv--how you watch, where you watch--is just as important as if you watch at all. Television...information systems like the computer or a CD player or video game...can be educational, helpful, build relationships, improve emotional maturity. What's that, you say? The latest shoot-em-up console game is going to help my toddler with words? Nope. Again, point proven.

You can't flip on any old channel, plop your youngster down, and expect something other than a mindless zombie. Then again, you can also have a 2 year old pointing at the screen recognizing advanced mechanical concepts and a variety of wild animal species you're learning as well.

Quit blaming the hammer. It's just a tool. You can knock down walls with it. You can pound nails. You can break furniture...or your tv.

Don't leave your kids unsupervised with a hammer. But at the same time, you could also show your child a hammer and teach them how you can build cities, make life easier, learn physics, or have a safety lesson about what a powerful tool it is.

Let's stop making claims that media hurts children--or women, or puppies--and start having more discussions, encouraging a diversity of activities, being present to be master of information. But I've heard enough about violent video games, too much sex, or how movies with smoking is making our kids more likely to smoke.

Sorry. It's time we take a long look in the mirror and blame the consumer. Or next time blame the newspaper for all the current events that are happening. That pretty much summarizes where our society stands.


  1. Hi,
    Will you please post a link to your Blog at The Fatherhood Community? Our members will appreciate it and as the father of 3 teenage boys, I will too.
    Members include: Fathers, Dads, Daddies, Fatherhood Lovers, Experts and Fans.
    It's easy to do, just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website. You can also share Photos, Videos and Articles if you like.
    Email me if you need any help or would like me to do it for you.
    Please feel free to share as often and as much as you like.
    The Fatherhood Community:
    I hope you consider sharing with us.
    Thank you,
    James Kaufman, Editor


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