Short Attention Span Theater

August 9, 2007 at 4:40 am (family, opinions, rants)

I thought I’d get away from depressing politics for at least a minute and get to something else I enjoy ranting about which I also have no first-hand experience with – child rearing.  This morning it was all over the news (if you can call CNN and the Today Show news) about how the Baby Einstein video series may actually delay language development.  This is another one from “Captain Obvious Weekly”.  Does anyone actually think that plopping and infant down in from of the TV to watch other infants doing crap to the tune of classical music on TV would actually improve their language skills?

Unfortunately, in my opinion this minor developmental delay is not the most insidious problem associated with this type of product.  Parents are getting their children addicted at younger and younger ages to watching moving things on screens.  Video games, leap-frog, computer web-sites associated with toys, TV, DVD, you name it.  Kids are constantly watching a glowing screen, and not just while at home.  Now with the latest technology, they can take video games and DVD’s with them everywhere they go, not to mention built-in DVD players in cars.  Now I’m the first to admit that I don’t know what its like to have a car full of screaming children, and yes, I’m sure its easier to stick a DVD in front of them like some glowing pacifier.  But somehow, parents through the years dealt with children with no electronic gadgets, so obviously it can be done.  Its less convenient, but seriously, what are we doing to our childrens’ imaginations and attention spans?  They are constantly being bombarded with stimulation – lights, movements, sounds.  Whatever happened to a nice book in a quiet room?

One of the most disturbing examples of this that I witnessed was on an airplane.  I was seated across the aisle from a young couple with a baby around 12-18 months of age.  They had the ubiquitous portable DVD player with something like the Teletubbies on it.  When it came time to turn off all portable electronics, the parents shut it off, and the child started screaming.  They disobeyed the rules and turned it back on, and the child immediately shut up.  The flight attendant came by, they shut it off, and the baby cried.  And so it went.  It was some scary kind of hypnosis that little screen had the baby under.  Now I definitely sympathize with the parents, because I’m sure they were embarrassed that their child was screaming, and they were trying to do a service to the other passengers, but it just made me sad.  Everywhere you go – restaurants, stores, etc – kids are kept occupied by portable screens.

I know I’ve gotten myself on quite the soap box here.  I only hope that I never make a hypocrite out of myself if and when I do have children.  I’m sure parenting is 1000 times harder than I can ever imagine, but I just think all of the excuses are pretty lame because we know its possible to raise happy and smart people without glowing screens, you know, at least until they need to use the internet for important things, like porn and blogging.



  1. kugreg said,

    Not to mention that many scientists believe that this early exposure to so much flashing motion pictures may lead to ADHD. So the increased diagnosis of ADHD may be because of societies failure as parents…

  2. rehull said,

    Screaming children on the plane is the main reason I bring earplugs. It doesn’t delete the sound but it sure does muffle it enough so that my eardrums don’t feel like they are going to explode. I think when we have kids someday, I’ll carry around earplugs in my purse… safe driving is a good thing.

    I have 2 friends that have different theories of how to keep kids occupied:
    Mommy #1) Take a walk with a stroller: She calls it “good awake time for baby and me.”
    Mommy #2) Baby Einstein approach: Keeps them occupied, but she complains about being cooped up in the house all day, not getting any exercise, and gaining weight on top of the “baby weight”… but never wanted to go on a walk (her hubby would tell her to do that, and another friend and I would try to schedule walks with her, but she never felt like it). Her second baby was a colicky baby (sometimes cried 6 hrs. straight!) which I would never wish on anyone! … earplugs would come in handy for this situation.

    Did your mom take you on “walks?” … or something similar, or make you go outside to play when you were bothering her? I don’t know, I think kids experiencing outdoors (instead of TV) is an important thing, but I also am talking about something I have slim experience with.

    BTW – Music & Lyrics: Kurt didn’t watch it with me, but I got 2 guy friends to come over and watch it with me while K was out on a ~3.5 hr. bike ride. I liked it… taking you back to 80’s music is what one of the guys really liked.

    Oh, now that we moved… we no longer have free TV with our cable internet 😦 They must of found a way to block it. Actually Kurt got his feelings hurt when I said I didn’t believe him that we don’t get any TV channels anymore…. We’ve been watching The Tour de France (sp?), which your parents brought up when they helped us move.

  3. mysterybea said,

    You know, now that you mention it, I have no idea how my mom dealt with us when we were little babies. I know she read to us a LOT which is probably why I love reading (in a nice quiet place) so much now. And I also remember that until I was 14, we only had one TV in the house and it had an 11 inch screen, so TV watching was obviously not our primary activity. When we were older we rode bikes, played cards and did stuff like that. We also had lots of chores around the house, which I’m not complaining about. I really enjoy knowing how to cook, clean and do my own laundry now! It amazes me how many of my peers have no idea bout that stuff.

    I have a friend whose wife had a baby last year and he’s come into work just wrecked because she was colicky and would cry all night. He tells me that he and his wife take their two young girls for walks every night to calm them before bed…and coincidentally his wife was in amazing shape very soon after giving birth. Hmmm, maybe there’s something to that! I definitely think that its more calming for children to get some nice fresh air in the stroller than to wind down with a DVD every night like so many of them do!

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