Invasion of the Brain and Body Snatchers: Making a Scene about Screens
Our problems with screens start out innocently enough. A little TV here or there while I make dinner, a cell phone to stay safe, a little video-gaming-fun so friends will come over to play, computer learning modules to help our kids do better in school, a little Facebook to stay connected to friends. Then, little-by-little, step-by-step, we seamlessly allow this BEAST called media into our lives. Eventually, left unchecked, screens can lead to life-devastating problems.
The biggest issue I have overall with screens is the myriad of things we are not doing because of screen-time. Having 8.5 hours (some say 6.5, some say 11) of screen time per day in the lives of our children is like eating an entire chocolate cake every day and simply not being hungry to eat anything else.
Here are “Dr. Kathy’s Top Ten Worries about Media Influence in Our Kids’ Lives” (and, frankly, ours, too). Watch the videos we have linked to each of these problems and you will cry.
1. Loss of relationship skills and eventually loss of the very core of who we are and what matters most–our relationships with others. Without practice with empathy, love, and conflict resolution, the quality of our relationships with others goes down. Consider even the tragedy of Facebook envy!
2. A future generation of super-consumers who start early and become addicted for life to more stuff than ever. They will have to work longer hours than we do to pay for it all (until the “stuff” runs out).
3. Obsession with thin and beautiful: It is hard to like yourself as you are when everyone in the media is perfect. This obsession can lead to low self-esteem, self-loathing, depression, eating disorders and more.
4. Desensitization to violence–both tolerating it and doing it!
5. Promotion of extreme gender-identities–of what it means to be a man (tough, in-control, stud) and a woman (sexy, passive, and always wanting sex).
6. Promotion of fear and anxiety–by a focus on negative events and stories.
7. Unnatural sexual relationships: The message in many games and movies is that women are objects to be used sexually–sometimes leading to rape and pornography-addiction. Another message is that a woman saying “no” is just teasing and that she really “wants it.”
8. Unnatural brain state while watching screens, especially immature brains. They soak in media images as real.
9. Addiction to fatty food and to alcohol: Food is viewed as entertainment rather than nourishment. Our children will die earlier than we do from complications of obesity and diabetes.
10. Video-game addiction is costing time, money, jobs, and relationships. The average gamer is 37 years old and showing up in marriage counseling.
For a ton more links to sad but fascinating videos pertaining to research on these topics, check out this link.
HOW DID WE ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN?
We have fewer laws to protect our kids than any other industrialized nation. When did WE allow the health of corporations to be more important than the mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual health of our children? And what are WE going to do about it? Most parents want the best for our kids. We invest a lot of time and energy in their futures–spending our life energy and our money on their education, sports teams, music lesions, and many other experiences. Then, in a blink of an eye, we undermine it all by allowing screens in to the tune of 6.5 hours/day, a full one-third of their waking hours. Check out “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds,” 75 pages of research on this topic by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
SO WHAT TO DO?
Dr. Doreen Dodgen-Magee is a fantastic Portland psychologist who is passionate about addressing media issues in families. During her presentation, “Plugged In: The Neurological, Interpersonal, and Personal Impact of Technology-Only Entertainment” (which you can attend at the Multnomah Arts Center on April 17), she offers some absolutely, right-on messages for all our families to embrace:
- Use technology with moderation.
- Promote a life of messiness and stickiness. Have creative corners all over your house. Find ways to bring art into your kids’ lives.
- Remember it’s easier to establish healthy norms than it is to break bad habits. Regarding technology, ask questions before bad habits happen; get at real issues to get at real solutions. (e.g. If your son loves “strategy,” for example, try the “FIFA Soccer” game rather than first-person shooter games.)
- Do everything possible to protect your children from violence, gender bias/objectification, and the overly consumerist media. You can reduce exposure to commercials, for example, by taping shows so you can watch on your schedule and fast forward through commercials.
- Be honest: You are what you ingest (sounds, visuals, etc.)
- Value a counter-culture lifestyle.
I would add: BE ACTIVE IN CHANGING OUR CULTURE to one that protects its children. Let’s get closer to the 1750 BC Code of Hammurabi: “It is a crime punishable by death to sell anything to a child without first obtaining a power of attorney.”
With admiration for all you do!
A few additional ways you can be proactive about being keeping screens in check would be to:
- Join and support www.commercialfreechildhood.org and www.commonsensemedia.org.
- Get an Organizers Kit and celebrate “Screen-Free Week” in your child’s school.
- Read excerpts on
“Taming the Tube,” “TV-Free Families,” “Cyberbullying and Internet Safety” from our wonderful books,
Raising Our Daughtersand Raising Our Sons.