It’s tough to be a kid these days. At least, that’s what constant studies tell us.
The latest study concludes that young children watch too much television. That’s nothing new — people have been worrying about the impact of the “boob tube” and parents using TV as an electronic babysitter since I was a kid back in the ’60s — but the cumulative weight of the studies is hard to contest. The most recent study, of children in Quebec, showed that children who watch too much TV when they are very young have impaired math and verbal skills. If they don’t go outside and play with other kids, they don’t develop their motor and social capabilities and, as a result, are more susceptible to bullying.
There are other problems with kids who never leave the house for unsupervised play because of parental fears of kidnappers, rapists, child molesters, drug pushers, and other perceived dangers. Kids who stay inside don’t run around, ride their bikes, and get the exercise that other kids get. Indoors, they are in close proximity to refrigerators and cupboards full of sugary, starchy, fattening foods that make a considerable portion of them morbidly obese and prone to juvenile diabetes. They spend hours in air-conditioned surroundings and develop asthma.
When they are watching the TV or playing their video games, they don’t need to use any creativity or personal self-direction. And often their only outside play is under the careful supervision of adults in structured settings where the rules are established and kids don’t get to make up games, revel in the freedom of an unplanned summer’s day, or engage in the silliness that is part of the fun of being a child. And often, if a kid shows any signs of rambunctiousness, he gets carted off to the doctor for a diagnosis of ADHD and a brain-numbing dose of some drug that is supposed to make him more docile and controllable.
It’s scary being a parent, with all of the stories of predators lurking and dangers for children seemingly around every corner. Sometimes it seems that the best course is just to keep your kids inside, where you know they are safe. But when we do so, we aren’t doing them any favors.