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.


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