Too Much TV = Psychological Problems
From the department of No Shit, Really?-How-Did-You-Deduce-That? (University of Bristol in England) comes news that kids who spend too much time in front of a flickering screen (be it television or the computer) feel more lonely and sad. In fact there appears to be a direct correlation between depression and screen time; the more television a pre-teen gets (age 10 and 11) the more likely he is to feel depressed (or the more depressed he is the more TV he’s likely to watch; the researchers didn’t draw the distinction.). I suppose it’s nice to have concrete research to point to, but parents have known for a long time that kids who watch too much TV are anti-social zombies; we don’t need a scientific study to tell us. But how much is too much? I’m reading this news in Scientific American Mind magazine, and there’s no indication about how much is too much. I’m going to venture a guess though.
Use Some Common Sense:
None of us are the same. For example, my friend doesn’t watch any television at all. He doesn’t own a TV because he wouldn’t have much time to watch it even if he did have one. He doesn’t derive pleasure from watching it so he doesn’t bother. Our family doesn’t watch TV programming either (no cable), but we do watch Netflix movies and play video games. We do spend time in front of the screen. My boys, who have screen time, aren’t depressed and neither is my friend who gets no screen time at all. That means there must be a threshold beyond which depression starts to sink in (or a point where depression causes TV watching). The big question is, “Where is that threshold?” My answer to that question is to conduct some self examination. I’ve had sick days before where I spend all day watching television or playing video games. After a few hours I really start getting bored and feeling crummy (beyond the sickness that put me there in the first place). I suspect we all have a different breaking point, but most people don’t spend any time monitoring their kids (much less themselves) for signs of boredom, sadness and loneliness. Thus, their kids keep watching TV or playing video games and keep sliding deeper into their psychological holes. Really, then, it comes down to monitoring and common sense. Is your kid feeling depressed and then goes to watch TV because he can’t pick himself up to do anything else? Or is he watching TV and then becoming depressed as a result? It’s up to us as parents to see the signs and say which it is.
Common Sense Isn’t:
Unfortunately for us common sense isn’t common. For the same reason we human beings have lost our hunter/gatherer instincts thereby making most of us into bear food if we were to get stuck in the woods without a gun, GPS, survival gear, a cell phone, a year’s worth of food, a generator and a microwave, likewise, we don’t recognize the abnormality of kids sitting in one place for a long time. Somewhere along the way we started seeing the inaction of being a zombie in front of the television as normal, as not unhealthy. Kids are supposed to be actively engaged with the world around them, not have a passive relationship with the world through television. Television, like any abusable substance, should be limited. It should not interfere with the active pursuit of growing up. If it starts to get in the way of normal kid activity, parents should be aware enough to put it to an end. It seems simple, right? If you’re stuck in the woods alone, you should make shelter, a fire and some implement for catching food. Of course that’ll take (for almost all of us) a reeducation in living. I don’t think turning off the TV on your kid is anywhere remotely as difficult as surviving alone in the wilderness, but turning off the TV does mean that you’ll need a plan for something to do once the TV is off–some new way of operating. To get healthier results you’ll have to learn to approach life differently. Less TV, more active participation. If you think about it, that’s a big change for a lot of people. Maybe turning off the TV not as bad as learning how to make fire, but new habits are nevertheless hard to form. Most people, regardless of the causes, are perfectly cozy either killing or comforting their brains with the numbing influences of television. It’s a shame for it to happen to anybody, especially kids.