When I was growing up in the 70’s, there were four TV channels. I remember having to fight my sister for the phone at night to talk to a friend. And I recall when cartoons on Saturday meant Felix the Cat and Road Runner? Times have sure changed and research is backing that up! A new report from the National Institutes of Health and Yale University shows strong links to increased media exposure and ill effects during childhood. So dramatic are these effects that these researchers say our nation needs a “wake up call”. The link between various types of media and obesity, increased drug and alcohol use, low academic achievement and increased sexual behavior cannot be ignored! What surprised me most about this study was the sheer amount of time that children spend on cell phones, TV, magazines, internet, music and video games…..on average of 45 hours a week! This compares with an average of 17 hours a week spent with parents.
For nearly 25 years, Parents as Teachers has been working to help parents understand their important role, to strengthen that parent-child bond, and to provide opportunities for parents and children to play together – away from the pull of the media world. Would the research findings be different if every family had access to a PAT program? I believe so. While technology is great (I love my Blackberry)….too much of a good thing can be very, very bad. Research is showing us that. I challenge us all to spend some more time with our kids…..away from the TV, the IPods, and the cell phones (and Blackberrys). What fun things are you going to do?