It never occurred to me to look into the damage that can be caused by simply watching more television than one should or spending too much time using multiple devices. Television has and will most likely continue to be a pastime that transcends all or most generations. The nature of television continues to evolve and adapt to the times in which we live; becoming more interactive by the year and keeping us all up to date with information pertaining to every whim popular culture decides is relevant to our lives, keeping our children entertained and enthralled and of course providing an electronic oasis of escapism for whoever needs or wants it.
Growing up with a little brother with special needs who was obsessed with Scooby Doo is what first brought my attention to a book entitled, Remotely Controlled. My brother was not only obsessed with watching this and other similarly paced cartoons, but it was his behavior during and after these colorful episodes that made me conscious about the harm they could be doing. A lot of my brothers’ obsession with cartoons had every bit to do with the need they met to not only provide entertainment but also function as a source of repetition that a child on the spectrum so craves.
We all have come to learn, of course, that the digital age and its many partners in crime; smartphones, tablets, and laptops – have made addicts of us. If the somewhat well-rounded, educated individual can become addicted to screen time what could be the potential impact on children and the more vulnerable among this group: children with learning challenges. While reading Remotely Controlled, I was provided with succinct answers to why my little brother behaved in certain ways and why many cartoons are produced in such a way that can lead to both short- and long-term effects on a child’s behavior; their interaction with others, their relationship with time, tasks, and language.
The need for constant stimulation, instant gratification, and the inability to handle complex problems that do not have quick solutions are all contributing factors spurred on by too much time with the small screen.
My brother would hurriedly try and repeat every word spoken within a segment of Scooby Doo while mimicking every exaggerated movement the animated pencil strokes made. His actions seemed erratic but it was purely a mirroring of what he was consuming. In turn more controlled and calming activities would go by the wayside and I could tell that his issues with speech and learning were only being exacerbated by his constant consumption of television.
To my surprise and elation (my concerns were given validation) Scooby Doo was actually given a mention and used as a prime example of cartoons that contain multiple jump-cut edits that can be cognitively harmful if watched repeatedly. A jump-cut edit basically results in transitions from scene to scene happening almost simultaneously. Conceptually, time breaks down into smaller, quicker, more instantaneous pockets of action. For example, Scooby and his gang could go from running through a deep forest to taking refuge in a cave within half a second. We miss what it takes to get the group of mystery busters through the forest and into the cave – we miss the journey.
Why is this important? Well, we must all learn patience; we must all learn to apply ourselves to tasks that will often take more than 60 seconds to achieve. We must all learn to enjoy longer-awaited forms of gratification. We must all learn to listen more than one should speak and of course always improve upon a very old art form – communication. According to analytics company, Nielsen, 2-5-year-olds watch more than 32 hours of television a week, adversely affecting speech, behavior, and brain development. We all have the right to have our health and development prioritized over the mass consumption of something that has been proven to cause severe harm.
New Research at London’s Institute of Psychiatry concludes that attention deficit disorder (ADHD) is a real problem in children and that early exposure to television during critical periods of brain development (adolescence) can be associated with subsequent attentional problems. In Remotely Controlled, Psychologist Dr. Sigmund speaks on the importance of proposing the following when raising young children in the home and there are some extra tips thrown in for families who want to curb screen time!
- Limit television time to no more than an hour a day for 1-5 year-olds
- Make use of other play and past time activities. Replace the tablet with a book, board game, crafts, or a favorite toy
- If the television must have a home in your house, then make it the living area. No television in children’s bedrooms.
- Remove cellphones from children’s bedrooms at night and return them in the morning after breakfast
- Sit down as a family and discuss how you would all like to manage your screen time. Make a plan and stick to it!