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Entries in Screen Time (3)


Kids & Media: Tales From the Front Lines

I've stumbled upon a couple of interesting articles recently. Remember "Baby Einstein"—that once-ubiquitous and ostensibly beneficial series of camcorder-grade videos of toys and puppets set to Casio-tone versions of classical music pieces? Seems the founders of the franchise, which had long since been sold to the Walt Disney Company, have sought a court order for the release of records by University of Washington researchers who have linked early television viewing with attention problems and delayed language development. Those findings, the founders contend, don't jibe with other research studies.

And I suppose that may be. But while working on The Green Hour: A Daily Dose of Nature for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids, I found the rising wave of creditable research linking children's increased media consumption to a host of negative outcomes—attention problems and academic achievement being just two of them—to be simply overwhelming.

And the beat goes on. In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation just last month released its new report, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds, which updates the already astonishing figures from its original report released five years ago. Incredibly, the average young person today now spends an average of 7 1/2 hours per day with entertainment media—and, by "multitasking," fits nearly 11 hours worth of media consumption into that time.

Turning the tide won't be easy, when clever products like the Fisher-Price iXL—the so-called "iPad for the pre-school set"—bring their touch screens to a toddler near you this summer.

Getting some fresh air, sunshine, and grass beneath your feet? Well, kids... I'm sure there's an app for that.


Out with the Screen, In with the Green

For many children, the prospect of connecting with nature requires them first to disconnect from the media that presently fill so much of their days.  (Recent figures from the Kaiser Family Foundation place the average use of electronic and screen media by American youngsters at more than 6 hour per day.)

For those parents and caregivers who'd like to see more kids trade screen time for green time, here's an encouraging figure from yesterday's New York Times.  According to the research group NPD, the sales of video game equipment and software in the United States fell 7.6% in November, a performance below the expectations of some analysts.

But don't underestimate the allure of electronic gaming media; even as the industry slumps, those November sales totaled some $2.7 billion.

For more, check out New York Times: U.S. Video Game Sales Down in November


Sunny Day, Sweeping the Clouds Away

"Sesame Street," that now venerable institution of public television programming, turned 40 today—a milestone many of us observed with our first Google session of the day.Sesame Workshop ®, Sesame Street ® & associated characters, trademarks & design elements are owned & licensed by Sesame Workshop. © Sesame Workshop. All Rights Reserved.

And, for as much as I enjoyed it myself as a child, it's hard for me to think of "Sesame Street" now without recalling Neil Postman's criticism of the program in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death.  (Incidentally, if I had to list what I thought were the 3 most important books of the last 25 years, this title would be one of them.)

He writes:

We now know that "Sesame Street" encourages children to love school only if school is like "Sesame Street." Which is to say, we now know that "Sesame Street" undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents. Whereas a classroom is a place of social interaction, the space in front of a television set is a private preserve. Whereas in a classroom, one may ask a teacher questions, one can ask nothing of a television screen...

And this:

As a television show, and a good one, "Sesame Street" does not encourage children to love school or anything about school. It encourages them to love television.


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On Amazon: Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business