Cap’ n Crunch vs. Cartoons and Screen Time
James L. Casale
Dear Parents, 14 October 2019
Do you ever read the obituaries? I have been reading them for years but I am particularly attracted to the ones in the Wall Street Journal which chronical the lives of iconic business professionals, scientists, and other obscure figures I never heard of. To me, their lives and accomplishments as well as their failures, are intriguing, fascinating, and informative.
Sometimes the narrative in the obituary includes something directly relatable to common sense parenting advice. For example, in this essay about the former president of Quaker Oats, Kenneth Mason, the topic of too much screen time for kids rears its ugly head.
Mr. Mason, suffered the criticism of many for his company’s sugary cereal, Cap’ n Crunch which was deemed unhealthy and rotted children’s teeth. Mr. Mason responded to his critics by replying that Saturday morning cartoons were rotting children’s minds and TV producers needed to come up with more intelligent programming. His comment were prescient.
These days, professional educators and organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics are warning against the deleterious effects of too much screen time for children. Screen time now includes much more than 1950s that I grew up on.TV. Electronic entertainment devices have changed and, along with TV, include: computers, x-boxes, cell phones, and other hand- held devices that seem to consume too much of our children’s time.
David Gelernter, professor of computer science at Yale University opines that,” Many children will settle down with the latest I stuff, each like a happy dog with a big bone and all those pads, pods, smart phones, video game machines and computers look like useful fun. We ought to group these machines with alcohol and adult movies. They.re fine for grown-ups but no good for children under 13 except for on-line learning when they are at home and simple cell phones when they go out.” Mr. Gelernter believes that these digital toys represent a “mental purgatory” that harms a child’s ability to concentrate. He is in good company, namely with the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics).
The AAP guidelines recommend establishing a family use media plan, banning all electronics at mealtimes and after bedtimes and eliminating TVs from children’s bedrooms. According to Marjorie Hogan, author of the AAP recommendation and a pediatrician, “excessive media use is associated with obesity, poor school performance, aggression, and lack of sleep.”
The evidence is clear and now it is decision time. As John Gardner, former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under president Lyndon Johnson, has stated, “The smallest school in America is the family.” Parents can and should control the environment and culture in their own homes. Equip yourselves with a positive attitude and accurate information and forge ahead to be an effective parent.
Dr. Casale is a state and national award-winning educator, a published author, and a national speaker. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. His website is http://www.commonsenseparenthood.com.