Media Soup

by: Heather on 12/13/2010
Posted in: Parenting

Sometimes you see something that strikes you are being so very, very wrong that it's hard to even know where to begin. That's pretty much how I felt when I came across this gem of an article on Science Daily - Improving Children's Diets Using Behavior Change Video Games Shows Promise. Yes, you did read that right. Alarmed by dramatic increases in childhood obesity, researchers created two games, Diab and Nanoswarm, aimed at "motivating players to substantially improve diet behaviors". The study published in the January 2011 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that kids playing these specially designed video games increased their fruit and vegetable consumption by about 2/3 serving per day.

It seems blindingly obvious that the most direct way to combat childhood obesity is to encourage kids to spend less time playing video games, not more. Provide your chubby child with nutritious food choices, limit their screen time and help them to get more active. Wouldn't that be a better recipe for slimming down than "behavior-modifying video games"?

We desperately need to examine the overwhelming role that technology has come to play in our child-rearing practices. A few decades ago, using Sesame Street to help teach the wonders of the alphabet seemed like a pretty neat idea, but the average North American child now spends hours a day staring at a screen - is this how we want to define a modern childhood? As Dan Chiras writes in Ecokids:

Not only does TV transform our children into lifetime programmed consumers, it may be giving them inferiority complexes and it certainly undermines parental values of frugality, when they exist. It does all this while bankrupting families. And despite all this, we continue to let our children watch television much more than is healthy, sitting alongside them munching popcorn ourselves, ticking off the list of new products we’d like to purchase.

It's time to step back from the questionable allure of technological solutions and take a critical look at the media soup we are bathing in. As we head into the biggest consumer frenzy of the year, consider giving a pass to the computer and video games and DVDs. I know - how about a nice book instead?



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