Media and Children

My husband and I were recently out to dinner with our friends a married couple without children. The friend of ours is a teacher at a "media-free" elementary school, and was also telling us how her niece (my son's age) is limited to 20 minutes of screen time a week. I felt somewhat guilty as my toddler son was watching Thomas and Friends on my iPhone to distract him while we ate dinner. I reflected on this later... do I let my son watch too much TV and play with the iPhone too much? Before I was a parent I would pass judgement on parents that slapped an ipad in front of their children to keep them quiet, but now I completely get it. It's not often my husband and I get to go out to dinner simply for the fact that our son does not like to sit still, and we rarely get to eat in peace. One way we can sit through a dinner when we are out is giving him my iPhone to watch Thomas and Friends, his most beloved cartoon. This being said, my son also attends a media-free daycare, and we limit the amount of TV he watches at home. When he does watch TV it's mostly Sesame Street or Thomas and Friends. At this stage, I don't see the harm in letting my son watch some occasional children's programming. I myself grew up in an extremely media-free household, without any television in our home until my parents finally broke down and bought one when I was 12. I read a lot growing up, and my parents read to me often. This does mean, however, I did not get exposed to television through friends houses, school etc. When I went to a friend's house that had cable, I would try to soak up every minute of that shit before I had to go home to read Little House on the Prairie (Which are a great series of books by the way). I think the most beneficial thing I got from this type of childhood was a love for books. I love reading now and always have. I loved reading in school and college, even dry textbooks. That being said I also know other people (including my husband) my age who literally were raised in front of the TV, but also love to read and are intelligent, responsible human beings. Even though I grew up without much television, I am now an avid television watcher, and probably spend too much time online and on my iPhone. What I am trying to convey is I doubt if there is any real correlation with long-term outcomes as an adult from early exposure to television or other screen devices, although I'm sure a bunch of early child development specialists will disagree with this. As a parent I am more concerned about my son's exposure to media as he becomes an adolescent. Now more than ever there is so much as a parent to worry about with cyber-bullying, stalking, exposure to violence and hate. I think sheltering our children from media outlets is not the way to protect them. With our world so permeated with the media this is nearly impossible unless we lock them up in a bubble and home school them, which is not necessarily healthy either. Limiting media use and educating our children about safe use is essential. I use the internet for networking and reading opinions of other mothers and medical professionals. I enjoy blogging because it is a platform for me to share my own opinions and ideas. I think there is so much good that has come from the increased access that every day people have to media. I think more voices that were underrepresented before in the media are now getting a voice. I want my son to contribute and influence in his own way when he is older as well. I don't think the media is the problem, but the outlet for which the other pathologies in our society often manifest.  If we teach our children morals and values and to be critical of what they watch and hear, media can play a positive role in their lives.
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