Wednesday, September 2, 2009

unplug your preschooler

Here is Part Two of my look at media use and kids. According to Dutwin in Unplug Your Kids, preschool kids are listening to music and watching TV, and 27% of them are using a computer while 16% of them are playing video games.

My own preschoolers are doing all of those things. We listen to music, of course, and as with babies research indicates that music is actually good for preschoolers. They both watch about the average amount (under two hours a day) of TV, even though we no longer have cable service. DVD's fill any void that was left by the cable service, although it does mean that they tend to watch the same thing over and over again and that I have more control over what they watch because I am the one checking things out from the library and putting them on our Netflix queue. Carbon was using a computer at the age of 4, for simple educational games. And since we got a Wii both kids play some of the Wii games - they especially love bowling. The large motor action of the Wii and relatively mild and slow graphics seem better suited to young children than the other video game systems we've owned in the past. Both kids also have a Leapster handheld game and they each love to play those games.

So, is all of this OK for my kids? Should I labor under some Mommy guilt for all this media exposure, since I seem to be in the minority at least for the video gaming?

After reading this chapter in Unplug Your Kids I am concerned about how much superhero stuff I've allowed to slip in to their TV diet, stuff I would not have allowed Carbon to watch at the age of 3 but that now his little sister sees because she's with her big brother while he watches it. Dutwin identifies that TV can be fine for preschoolers, if it is educational and slow paced - such as Dora the Explorer or Mister Roger's Neighborhood. He also reports that it is much better to watch with your kids and interact about what they are seeing.

The main problem with TV that he identifies is that it can reinforce gender bias at this age - showing girls how to be girls and boys how to be boys. So, I really want to set some new boundaries around those superhero shows! Those things are Sexist with a capital S.

When it comes to computer use, Dutwin reports that the jury is mostly still out, but that software that is designed to be educational should be fine for this age. I'm going to say that we are OK with our JumpStart Language Club game and the Leapsters. I'm even going to say that the sports and fitness games on the Wii are fine (but I don't want them to do shooting games).

So then we come to the Biggie of media and preschoolers - Advertising. They just don't understand how they are being manipulated. It introduces more gender bias, it can make them want crappy junk food, and I think it starts them down a slippery slope of materialism and discontent with what they already have.

The quickie guide for media use for preschoolers:
  • Keep the media devices in your control - NOT in their bedrooms
  • Watch TV and play computer games with your kids, and interact with them in the process
  • Know what your kids are watching and keep it to educational programs that show values you agree with
  • Use your DVR or On Demand or DVD's so that you skip all the advertising.

1 comment:

  1. I've followed all this with great interest. When mine were that age, I had some suspicions and feelings along the lines of the books. My biggest worry was that anyone who was feed a diet of outside ideas would never develop their brain properly to develop ideas of their own. (simple, I know) I personally don't watch much tv, and certainly held the same. Honey had a very minimal selection as a preschooler: Little Bear, Franklin the Turtle, and a few shows on Animal Planet about baby animals. However, when she was two had inherited a live-in 4 year old stepson who had been weaned on Barney, Thomas, and Pooh videos in his nursery! Buzz could not be in a room without a television going, even if we were playing a board game, etc. It took me a solid YEAR to break him of the addiction to the constant business of outside stimuli. We quelled it with television, but he just transferred the need to video gaming. He still struggles to just "be" , having to be constanatly around some sort of outside stimulus be it IPOD, texting , internet, or gaming. Honey on the other hand, would watch a 1/2 hour show as at five, get up and turn the tv off when it was over. No obsessions developed in that way. She games now, quite a bit at times, but it is more for the social interaction of XBox live (she has gamer friends from all over the world).
    In our experiences, I even wonder about hte link between ADHD and too much media influence.
    The advertising angle as well fascinates me. I find even in adults that those who watch all the time are those who go out and want to purchase things from commercials. I hear the same in the toy store. The constant images really do convince people that they need a certain toy for their kids!