Why parents should be concerned about the time children spend staring at a screen.
All parents – I think the generalisation is merited – feel at least some degree of concern over the amount of time their children spend staring at a screen. We instinctively feel that a child spending hours and hours staring at a TV or computer screen just can’t be right, even if we don’t know exactly why. Intuitively, you know that there is something wrong with it, but we might not rationally know the exact reason. There are many theories as to why it may be harmful. Does it make you violent? Does it cause brain cancer? Is it bad for your eyes? There doesn’t seem to be any conclusive research in any of these areas and I suggest these are all diversions.
It’s difficult for a parent to control the amount time a child spends staring at a screen. For one thing, you the parent were the one who bought the devices for your child. For another, the parent himself or herself is spending a great deal of time staring at a screen too! For both of these reasons, it would be hypocritical to begin imposing restrictions on the child. A reasonable parent wants a child to have freedom of choice and doesn’t want to start imposing restrictions, especially if there is no sold basis of evidence of negative effects to back it up.
What we need to do, as parents, is move beyond this vague intuitive gut feeling that it is not quite right, figure out why it is not right, and then share this information with the children or try to counter-balance the negative effect. I will now outline the reason why I am concerned about the amount of time my children spend at the screen, and it has nothing to do with physical health.
What concerns me most about the time my children spend staring at a screen regards the content of what they are watching which is having a profound impact on their sense of reality and their sense of the possible. David Icke, whatever you may think about his more radical theories, describes this phenomenon very clearly in relation to the mainstream media. With children, this is a two-pronged attack. On the one hand, children are watching movies and playing games which they consider to be firmly in the land of make-believe, pure fantasy. On the other hand, they are watching reality shows and situation comedies which portray reality and the lives of ’real’ people as incredibly shallow and dull – it’s all about who likes who, who hates who, what type of clothes to wear, wanting to be rich and famous – a barrage of mundane interests and triviality with which the characters are obsessed. For example, the show ‘Modern Family’ – it’s very funny and well-written but absolutely nothing ever happens in their lives and their concerns are all incredibly shallow. You could say the same about one of my all-time favourites – which illustrates that this is no new phenomenon, the show about nothing itself: Seinfeld.
So the children are presented with these two extreme versions of what can be perceived: one that they believe cannot possible be true, and one which is so base, mundane and meaningless that it is obviously true. And there is nothing in-between. This is making it very hard or impossible for children to grasp deeper philosophical or spiritual concepts. Things are either real or baloney. There is no sense of what is possible or what might be true. It is robbing the children of the grey area of creative thought and mental play. As I tried to introduce my own children to spiritual concepts such as the unity of all things or the holographic nature of all things – as aligned with mainstream quantum physics – I came up against a wall of incredulity.
This perception control may or may not be a deliberate conspiracy to direct humanity. Personally, I find that a compelling argument, but for the purposes of good parenting it doesn’t matter because I am convinced that the damage is being done, deliberately or not. It is extremely hard to present concepts as in the realm of possibility which have been presented to a child originally as simple fantasy. And it is very hard to present reality as full of possibility when the version of reality with which they have persistently been presented is so mundane and devoid of possibility. These are two sides of the same coin. This is so fundamentally restricting a child’s creativity and sense of the possible and therefore limiting a child’s ability to understand more profound concepts such as have enriched the human experience since the first cave paintings, through the great philosophers, the mystics, the astronomers, right up to today’s quantum physicists.
And this damage is done because of the amount of time with which the child has been exposed to it, via the screen. I believe that is why parents should be concerned with the immense amount of time their children spend staring.