To Mom and Dad: Thanks!
A study published this month in Pediatrics magazine suggests that toddlers who watch TV risk attention problems, including difficulty concentrating, acting restless and impulsive, and being easily confused.
This discovery won’t come as news to my parents, who raised me on a strict diet of one-hour-of-TV during the school week. At the time, of course, I resented the fascist restrictions on my youthful desires. While other kids at school were talking about The Fonz and Laverne and Shirley, I nodded dumbly and pretended I was in on the joke. And though I would beg Mom and Dad to let me vegetate in front of the glowing screen like most of my classmates, they were adamant that I would be better off reading a book, drawing a picture, or constructing an elaborate fantasy game with my brother.
In retrospect, I’m grateful for my parents’ Draconian TV regulations. I became a writer – and a dreamer, and a critical thinker, and a storyteller – thanks to the love of books and ideas instilled in me by a childhood lacking the nursemaid of television. Instead of parking me in front of a video (which I don’t think they even had back then!), my Mom took me to the library, where I was allowed to check out the maximum number of books — and if they didn’t last until our next visit, I read them again. Instead of coddling me with brain-dead sitcoms, my Dad had me sit upon his knee and read him stories.
People of my generation, I’ve noticed, do indeed have shorter attention spans, difficulty conducting a complex conversation, and a predilection to spend their evenings slumped on a couch bathed in the flickering blue glow of that most faithful companion. Few of them read books, let alone newspapers and magazines. And even fewer have strong ideas about anything other than the products they are encouraged to consume.
I didn’t realize more than 30 years ago that my parents had an inkling science might one day prove them right. As with disallowing sugarcoated cereals, they just wanted to be a good Mom and a good Dad. But I’m glad they did.
Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad.