by Peary Perry
Last weekend there was an interesting article written by the novelist, Norman
Mr. Mailer makes an interesting case for parents to stop using
television as a baby sitter. This is something Iíve advocated for a long time.
The article goes on to say that he (Mr. Mailer) believes the rise in the number
of cases of ADD in our youngsters today is partially due to their constant interruption
by television commercials. He states that children who are involved in any type
of activity and then get constantly interrupted tend to become angry and irritable.
I could not agree more.
On a daily basis I am amazed at the number
of ways our children amuse themselves. You hardly ever see a child just playing
outside of their houses without having some type of electronic device strapped
to their bodies. I wonder when kids get any time alone to just think. It seems
they must be hooked up to a DVD, Walkman or radio of some sort. In addition once
you factor in the time they spend in front of the boob tube, it doesnít seem as
if they have any time left to think original thoughts for themselves, does it?
I donít have enough time or space to address what effects computer games and the
Internet are probably having on our kids.
Now, we can always go back to
what we refer to as simpler and gentler times. When I was growing up, we didnít
have television twenty-four hours a day. It came on in the afternoon, with two
or three channels, and went off after the ten oíclock news. We didnít watch that
much of it, since there wasnít that much to watch. Most of the kids I grew up
with played outside. We went barefooted from the first warm days of spring until
after Labor Day. We improvised. We built forts, clubhouses and played ball until
it got so dark we couldnít catch anything. Then weíd sit on someoneís porch and
talk about anything and everything. We built crystal radios and tried to listen
to far away stations all over the world. We dated girls. We read books and we
enjoyed the simple things of just growing up.
Now, you might think this
would be all well and good in some rural country town, but we did all of this
in one of the countryís largest cities. We had opinions of our own, many of which
we carried over to this day. We couldnít solve the problems of the world, but
we sure could come up with solutions that made sense to us at the time.
this time, in our house we have one television, with probably 300 channels on
it. I would guess that we watch the thing a total of about one hour a week. The
constant interruption of the programming material by the commercials is irritating
to me and unless the program is something I am really interested in watching,
I just donít bother.
When cable television first came out, most of us
thought it would be commercial free since we were paying for it every month. Not
so. There are probably only ten or so channels on ours that do not have a commercial
cutting in every ten or twelve minutes. After a while you just get so frustrated,
you tune it out and look for other things to do.
I can see why children
could get their minds messed up having a constant interruption in their thought
processes. Mr. Mailer states that we are very low in educational standards out
of all of the industrialized countries of the world. He suggests that this is
mainly due to our students have the ability to concentrate for any period of time
longer than ten or twelve minutes.
I find his conclusions to be fascinating
and certainly do point towards a correlation between commercial interruptions
and attention spans for our children. We are living in a sound bite society in
which nearly everything we do is reduced to what can be related on television
in a very short period of time. Our children and yes, even ourselves are bombarded
on a minute-by-minute basis with commercialism at every level. We cannot drive
down the highway with seeing signs for business, our radios are spotted with commercial
breaks, newspapers are sold based on advertising and yes, the largest culprit
of all is our television. We tend to use it as a substitute for thought and logic
by convincing ourselves that we are being entertained.
Think about this,
you used to be able to go to a movie and basically sit in a dark place and escape
the rigors of reality for a few hours without any commercial interruption. Have
you been lately? If the start time is 2pm, then you get twenty minutes of commercial
material before the movie begins. Is nothing sacred anymore?
While I believe
we should be a well-informed society, I do believe we all suffer from too a sense
of information overload. We read the paper and get the news, why rehash it on
the tube? Our kids need to read, our kids need to play, and our kids need to think
for themselves. This is the only way they can stretch their minds and get prepared
to survive in the real world.
American Idol, Survivor, CSI and Law and
Order are not the real world. Kick those kids outside, stick a book in front of
their noses, sit down and talk to them. Youíll be surprised at what they might
© Peary Perry
Comments go to firstname.lastname@example.org
From North America - January
25 , 2005 column