Lately, I have been spending a lot of my “free time” (you know, that time when your eye lids want to close at 8:00pm, but you force them to stay open to get stuff done) reading books. So. Many. Books. I have to say, I am very grateful for all of those who have come before me, and who have spent their lives researching and publishing books, articles, etc. to help educate the masses on various subjects. From these individuals, my own concepts continual to evolve, and I am challenged to delve deeper into what my long-held beliefs are and what might need some tweaking.
One of my favorite books at the moment is called Magic Capes, Amazing Powers: Transforming Superhero Play in the Classroom, written by Eric Hoffman. It truly is a well written book for both parents and educators. At the preschool I work at, so many children are engrossed in this “superhero play”. It is something relatively new to me, however, since my own son is just beginning to discover the power of this type of play. I have been looking for a resource to help navigate my own ability to talk with children about this topic, as well as understand what the importance is with superhero play for children.
A good friend of mine mentioned this book, so I decided to begin reading it (and haven’t been able to put it down). While reading, something caught my attention that I feel is worth discussing- the role of MEDIA in and on children’s lives. The author, Eric Hoffman, gives an idea for parents to try out and then goes on to explain some mind-boggling facts about media:
“If you haven’t watched children’s TV lately, try this: Watch several children’s superhero shows on TV, and pay attention to how your body feels… Fast action video sequences, as well as many commercials, are edited to take advantage of a human biological quirk- feelings are faster than thoughts. powerful emotions, such as anger, fear, and desire, spread quickly through our bodies and limit our ability to think clearly. Our senses go on high alert, and our bodies get ready to run or fight. Some of my students say they seek out this state, because it makes them feel more alive and ‘in the moment.’ These reflex responses may be helpful in the face of danger, but TV and movie producers have learned to use them to their advantage. They leave exciting and often violent images on the screen for only a few seconds, long enough to arouse children’s feelings and catch their attention, but not long enough for children to think about what they are seeing. Before their minds have time to ‘kick in,’ the show moves on to the next image, often with a radical change in perspective, distance, color, or sound level, and they receive another dose of emotion and adrenalin. Each scene appears new, exciting, and a little bit dangerous. The pace may be reinforced by a soundtrack that includes a heavy, methodical beat. it’s hard to turn away!” (Chapter 2: Understanding Adults Views on Superhero Play, page 36-37).
So, what are we, as parents, supposed to do then about the use of media within our homes? I am in no way here to preach about how much TV children “should” or “should not” watch. I do, however, want to be informed, and want to inform others. It disgusts me that adults in powerful positions create shows that negatively affect children, knowing that children’s brains absorb everything in their earlier years. I am thankful that people spend time researching the effects of media and technology on children’s developing brains, so I can try to make more conscious choices about the types of shows my son watches.
It’s hard though- parents are busy. Dinner has to be made. Children need time to just chill and unwind. And then there’s the whole social piece of TV, as well. I know my son learns a lot at preschool from his peers about things that we don’t necessarily do in our home. I understand that. It’s important for him to learn from and relate to his friends, and for him to develop his own sense of wonder and intrigue in the world. However, it can be SO easy for children to be misled, especially by media. For example, is anyone explaining the concepts in those TV shows to children after they watch cartoon characters use a sword to fend off the “bad guys”? Discussing these things takes more effort on the parent’s part, yes, but it might be worth it.
So, what do you do in your home? How do you explain concepts to your children? How much screen time do your children get? Is there really any way to shelter our children from what is out there in the “sometimes beautiful, sometimes violent” world?
Please share your ideas, questions & thoughts… there’s really so much to this topic of MEDIA and it’s effects on children… I am just breaking the ice here.
Thanks for reading!