“There’s no trick to parenting. It’s just a simple trick!” Bradley Snyder quotes The Simpsons in his book: The 5 Simple Truths of Raising Kids. From his research and professional experience, Snyder simplifies raising kids to five key truths that will help parents better understand their children:
- Kids are kids
- Kids are good
- Kids need parents
- Kids need adults
- Kids need communities
In the excerpt below, Snyder tackles one of the most common difficulties parents face when raising children: how to get children to stop watching television. He discusses the correlation between television and obesity, and he explains that it’s not television’s fault:
Television Causes Obesity
I recently gave a presentation on the media habits of kids to a group of librarians. While the talk was designed to help them better understand younger library users, the question and answer session quickly turned to a discussion about the librarians’ own kids.
One librarian asked me, “Why does my son have to spend all of his time watching television and playing videogames? When I was a kid we would all go outside and hang out at the street corner and play.”
I thought about my response for a moment. These situations always are difficult. I do not like addressing specific instances. I always would rather speak about general situations. For one thing, I don’t want to come across as critical of one person’s parenting. Nor do I want to open the door for that person to share or explore feelings are too deep or troubling to address in a lecture setting.
As carefully as I could, I said, “I understand your concern, but let me ask you a question. Do you allow your son to go hang out at the street corner like you did when you were a kid?”
“No,” she replied quietly.
Some researchers believe that there is a correlation between hours of television watched and the rise in childhood obesity. Their argument is that all of the hours children spend watching television are hours that should be spent in physical activity. I tend to agree with this logic, but I don’t blame television.
Somewhere, somehow in the last 20 to 30 years we began to fear for our kids’ safety and stopped letting them play outside in our neighborhoods. We did this in spite of the fact that crime in our communities has been steadily decreasing. Even abduction, the crime we parents fear the most, has been declining. In 1999, the last year for which we have published data from the U.S. Department of Justice, there were 115 “stereotypical” kidnappings (where a stranger or acquaintance takes and kills the child or demands ransom or intends to keep the child permanently) nationwide. Do not get me wrong, a single kidnapping is too many, but according to the National Weather Service a child is about four times more likely to get hit by lightning than to be kidnapped in this manner we fear the most.
So while I agree that children watch too much television, I do not blame television. Rather, I blame our own fear. When children are not allowed to run outside and play in communities, television can be an enticing substitute for actual experience. When too much time is spent with television there is obesity, but, again, I do not blame television.
R. Bradley Snyder is an expert on the behaviors and preferences of children and youth. His work has helped develop raw concepts into some of the most successful programs, campaigns, and media for kids. Order your copy of The 5 Simple Truths of Raising Kids today!