TV or Not TV, That Is the Question
''All man's miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.''
~Blaise Pascal (1623 -1662)
''I can tell you exactly the year that my students changed,'' my college professor told our class in the 1970's. ''I'd ask a question, and nobody made any attempt to answer it. They thought they were watching TV. My students expected me to give them the answer.''
And so it goes.
Today our children are more tuned in than ever to TV, DVDs, video games, computers, text messaging cell phones and personal music devices. What have they tuned out?
Silence and the ability to listen to themselves. During our children's day, when do they have quiet time to think their own thoughts and reflect on their own lives?
How can we help our children unplug from other people's voices and dramas, and tap into listening to their own voices?
Be the adult in charge. Use common-sense rules and keep televisions and computers out of bedrooms. Keep computers in common areas, so the screens are easy to monitor. Make rules limiting usage of the phone and other devices. Recently I have seen children as young as six with personal cell phones and iPods.
Use low-tech devices to engage your children. Jigsaw puzzles, books for reading aloud, cooking, after-dinner walks, model building, crossword puzzles, Sudoku--all these can help your child and you unplug and engage in interpersonal and intrapersonal communication.
Take a vacation from electronics. Have a ''power outage'' at your house one evening a month. Sit around the fire or in the yard to watch fireflies. Play charades, board games or card games by candlelight. Fix a special snack, and enjoy each other's company.
Turn off your TV for a week. If your power outage night was a success, think about unplugging for a week. Coordinate with a few friends or neighbors to plan some group activities that don't involve television, computers or video games.
A 20-year study on the qualities associated with success suggests that certain personal attributes contribute to one's sense of achievement. Success was defined as having positive family relations, good friends, being loved, self-approval, job satisfaction, physical and mental health, financial comfort, spiritual contentment and an overall sense of meaning to one's life.
The qualities that contribute to the richness of life were self-awareness, being proactive, perseverance, goal-setting, effective support systems and emotional coping strategies. Do our children's plugged-in devices contribute to the building of these qualities?
The research also suggests that these characteristics may influence success and self-fulfillment more than such factors as academic performance, gender, socio-economic status, ethnicity and IQ (intelligence quotient).
Our children need peace and quiet to think their own thoughts and to learn to enjoy being with the person they'll live with all their lives--the person in the mirror. Our children need time with family and friends to build lifelong positive relationships. Let's be sure our children, tempted with a variety of electronic media, are not tuning out the ability to love their lives.
For more information about unplugging, visit www.tvturnoff.org.
Next week: Competition
Kids Talk™ is a column dealing with early childhood development issues written by Maren Stark Schmidt. Mrs. Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland.
She has over 25 years experience working with young children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is also Creative Director for a video-based reading series for children ages three to six, The Shining Light Reading Series. Contact her via e-mail at email@example.com.
Complete Collection of the Shining Light Reading Series Now Available on DVD
Visit www.shininglightreading.com for more information.
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