It’s been drilled into us for years that kids shouldn’t spend so much time in front of the television, and for good reason. With obesity rates off the charts and behavioral issues running rampant, health professionals and parents have come to regard television as an evil life-sucking force…that most of us still watch anyway, in one form or another.
Now a health initiative studying ways to reduce children’s screen time has some breaking news – none of them have worked.
Researchers focused on methods of reducing screen time for preschoolers, especially during meal times. Participants were educated about methods to moderate their children’s media consumption and the potentially harmful effects “too much television” can bring to your life-party: including threats of nicotine addiction, amnesia, blackout, and death. (Just kidding! You only die in your heart if your kid makes you watch Caillou.)
At the end of the study they found that the children in the restricted group were still watching the same amount of television per week, on average, as those in the unrestricted group, and then all the researchers went out for drinks because shit dude, that sucks.
The restricted group did see a minor drop in the number of meals consumed in front of the television, proving that if you specifically instruct parents not to let their kids eat in front of the TV sometimes they will listen to you, but not that often. Take that, authority figures! You don’t tell us what to do!
Pediatricians from the study suggest that they would have better results if awareness was spread across society, especially to teachers and doctors to “take it more seriously.” More likely this study has confirmed longstanding evidence that you can’t scare people into not watching television.
Thirty years ago my mom was wagging her finger and scolding that, “too much TV will rot your brain!” and well, we can all see how well that worked out. Now here we are again having the exact same discussion and not much has changed besides my bowl cut.
While “kids need less screen time” is a great message (especially at the dinner table) the proof is in the numbers that just hitting parents in the face with that one mantra over and over isn’t changing anyone’s behavior.
If the goal is a greater cultural shift in viewing habits it may be time to hit the brain cloud for some fresh ideas. Is it time for improved programming? Positive reinforcement? Screen-free government play dates at the park? Burning all mommy’s electric babysitters in the town square?
Get your A-game on, science doctors, let’s see what we can shake out. Put these repeat studies you dug out from the 1980′s aside and do it for the kids.