Conscious Parenting Guide

from The Well Baby Book by Mike Samuels, M.D. and Nancy Samuels


Copyright © 1979, 1991 Mike Samuels, M.D. and Nancy Samuels

Summit Books, Simon and Schuster Building, Rockefeller Center

1230 Ave of the Americas NY, NY 10020




Television is one of the major, if not the major, agent of socialization for our children. The effects of television viewing have been extensively researched, yet most parents know nothing about the results of these studies. As of 1980, the average preschooler watched twenty-nine hours of television per week —between three and four hours a day. By the time the average child reached high school, he or she had spent more time watching TV than in any other single waking activity. Again, this is not something most parents are aware of or think about very often.


Extensive television viewing has preponderantly negative effects on a broad range of developmental parameters. Not only does TV have negative psychological effects, it prevents children from engaging in activities that would have positive effects. The most widely studied effect has to do with violence. Television viewing produces increased aggressive behavior and increased acceptance of violence. These studies are so convincing that as early as 1972 the Surgeon General of the United States issued the warning, " A causal relationship has been shown between violence viewing and aggression. TV violence is harmful to the viewer." [...]


The second major effect of TV is the blending of fantasy and reality. This is especially significant for young children who have not yet learned to distinguish fantasy from reality. Adults are able to realize that what is portrayed on TV generally has nothing to do with the reality of life, either their own or what they see around them. Young children who have not yet reached the age of reason are totally unable to make such distinctions. Many segments of the population, including minorities, old people, women and children, and even men are not portrayed as they really are, either in terms of their activities or their reactions. [...] Beyond this, children see an estimated 20,000 commercials a year, which likewise present an abbreviated or unreal life-style. All 20,000 of these messages are expertly produced pieces designed to convince people that happiness and fulfillment result from the consumption of material objects, which in reality are often dangerous or unhealthy. Studies of seven-year-olds have shown that the more they watch TV, the more they believe the distorted reality they see on it.


For young children, television is a significant source of information—much of it misinformation—about sex and sexual roles. Most often TV tends to trivialize sex or make it a tool with which to manipulate people. Sex is rarely portrayed as part of a meaningful relationship. TV is not a source of biologically correct facts, rather it emphasizes the more unusual sexual practices such as prostitution and brief sexual encounters.


Dr. T. Barry Brazelton has written about the fact that television encourages a passive stance toward the world. Television images are so compelling that, while nursing, a a young baby will often look at a TV screen in preference to it's mother’s face. Later, as young children become able to interpret action, they become overwhelmed by the implications and shut down emotionally because they do not know how to deal with the information they see. Many social scientists are concerned that the passivity induced by TV viewing prevents children from participating fully with friends, hobbies, school, and family.


The effects of television on cognitive skills are very complicated, but studies suggest that television viewing has a negative impact on learning as well as motivation. The rapid shift of images on TV tends to reduce the children's attention spans. In early years, even Sesame Street was criticized for the speed at which it presented information. Some researchers even believe that the lack of eye movement necessitated by television viewing may contribute to reading problems in preschoolers. [...]


What should parents do to reduce the effects of TV on young children? Researchers and educators suggest there is much that can be done. First, parents can limit the amount of time that children watch TV. [...] A number of researchers believe that based on the results of studies, preschool children should not be allowed to watch any television. Because of social pressures and the convenience of using TV as a baby-sitter, few parents are willing to restrict TV totally. Generally, parents either limit the hours that the TV can be watched per day, or they only allow children to watch certain shows or watch at certain times. Some families limit their TV viewing to Saturday morning, others to several hours a day. Restricting children to specific programs has the added effect of screening what the children watch, and making sure that what they watch is educational. [...] Reading aloud to children, playing board games or engaging in physical activities with them, and simply holding family discussions are valuable alternatives to TV. Moreover, children thrive on the direct one-to-one attention such activities involve.


Conscious Parenting Guide 2009-15 

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