Monday, March 19, 2007

jono tries some op-ed

i'm not one to usually voice my strong opinions in a public forum, but i've been thinking about a recent article mom sent me last week, and today i really wanted to write a response. below is the article i read, followed by my letter back to the author.

credit goes to jim fay at the 'love and logic institute' (www.loveandlogic.com), a website for parenting.

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jim's article:

"I’M BORED, WHAT CAN I WATCH?"

I was raised in an era when kids knew that it was their responsibility to entertain themselves. When we got bored we asked, "What can we do?" If your kids ask this question, you are doing a good job of parenting.

Many kids today ask, "I’m bored. What can I watch?" This is difficult to combat in an era where television and video games can keep kids in an almost constant state of stimulation.

Research on the brain tells us that this constant excitement can wire a kid’s brain to prefer activities that offer immediate stimulation and entertainment. As a result we see many children who cannot handle the slower speed of a normal classroom. These kids see school as boring and often stimulate themselves by acting out.

Our media-driven culture of constant stimulation through TV and video games contributes to the number of kids who need and demand instant gratification. Dr. Ed Hallowell describes these kids as attention-disordered.

Do your kids a favor and limit the amount of time their brains are connected to electronic entertainment. More than one-half hour per day is hurtful to your child’s brain.

Learn more about hyperactive children in "Meeting the Challenge" by Jim Fay, Foster W. Cline, M.D. and Dr. Bob Sornson.

Thanks for reading. If you like this, get your friends on board!


Jim Fay

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my response:

Dear Jim,

My mom, Mary, is a therapist who regularly forwards your articles to me via email. I enjoy reading your comments.

In response to your post "I'm Bored, What Can I Watch," while I do agree that too much TV and video games are not good, I wonder about the "slower speed of normal classrooms" as mentioned in your letter.

Seems like times have been changing for a long while (technology-wise), considering that I was in middle school in the 1980's, and I was watching more and more channels of cable TV and playing with my old Atari video game console way back then.

Now I am 38 and my son, 7, has more media choices than ever between our X-Box, our iMac, and cable. And we love Scrabble, baseball, reading, piano, and math. So this isn't anything new for this generation, for sure.

But visit any school classroom across the country, and multi-media might exist, but it takes a back seat to text books, chalkboards (now whiteboards), and standardized tests requiring No.2 pencils and little black circles. Pretty boring.

While TV and video game time should be moderated, it is certainly the way kids today are influenced and stimulated. They seem to develop skills, retain all sorts of data, and become engrossed in the stimulation provided by their experiences with electronic media. Not usually the case in the classroom.

So is technology at home the problem, or is it lack of technology in our schools that keeps our kids bored? I say we need to change with the times and embrace all of this multimedia, but certainly look at well-balanced, ethical, and safe ways to incorporate it into all aspects of our children's lives, especially the classroom. I am no expert, but I am sure that the inductive, stimulating sensory experience of TV, film, and video games, if applied properly to education, would dramatically improve the learning experience of our kids today.

Your article goes on to say that more than a half-hour of electronic entertainment is hurtful to your kids brain. Really? In today's world, too much antiquated 'entertainment' might also have a negative effect...what would it be like to grow up in our techno-centric culture with a lack of exposure to video games, MTV, and other electronic media? My son and I certainly spend more than 30 minutes a day watching TV, shopping for music on iTunes, or dunking baskets and fighting Storm Troopers on the X-Box, and our brains don't hurt at all. (in fact they work pretty well and feel pretty good!)

It's time to look at what people are attracted to (kids AND adults) and figure out ways to embrace it, not shun it in exchange for the ways of yesterday. What if "disorders" like ADD are really a result of lack of stimulation? What if, over the past several generations, our brains are evolving along with technology, and new ways of learning and staying entertained are more important for our kids today? Why dumb-down the desire for more stimulation, instead of finding a balance of healthy ways to keep active, both mentally and physically?

Certainly a world of obese people wired into virtual reality suits can't be good for our species, nor can a world full of prescription drug-suppressed minds deprived of technology, but a world that keeps up with technology while maintaining our humanity, community and history sounds better to me than boring classrooms and the recent invention of "attention-disorders" and "too much TV and video games" as the cause of our kids' troubles.

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sorry, jim, but your article starts out by telling us "i was raised in an era when..."

...it's not that era anymore.

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