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A must read for every parent, especially if you have a TV and internet!

  • May 20, 2010

My reaction: The first time I read Gloria DeGaetano's book "Parenting Well in a Media Age: Keeping Our Kids Human" I was a college student. It was required reading for a child psychology class. At that time I didn't know I would be a mother five short years later. Nevertheless, it was a compelling read and I could already relate since I had a nephew and a lot of experience as a children's counselor at various camps. I couldn't put it down and every page had a phrase or sentence I just wanted to share with someone because it was either well said or very thought provoking. I think what made it an easy and enjoyable read is the real-life stories of parents and their children throughout the book. 

Now that I have become a parent, I see this book in a new light. I haven't read it cover to cover again, but I have devoured it selectively. With a 16 month old baby, I struggle every day with the temptation to stick her in front of the TV and let her watch cartoons for two hours straight. I can wash the dishes, do the laundry, cook and bake - but at what expense? Sometimes I contemplate just canceling the FiOS service because this media babysitter is just a huge distraction. It distracts me from devoting time to learning, reading, and playing with my child. I see an enormous difference in her behavior when she is the one washing the dishes with me, doing laundry with me, and preparing meals with me. Yes, it is harder that way. You're likely to create more of a mess! Who said parenting is easy. But I realize more and more that good parenting cannot be accomplished by letting the media culture do the work for you. Not to mention that a baby sleeps a lot better when being outside more and not watching any television. 

This book has really prompted me to ignore the fact we have television in the home and instead to focus on creative activities with my child. This, of course, includes household chores and tasks as well. Our daughter already has a huge vocabulary, way ahead of her age, but I have noticed how much more she talks when the television is not on, obviously. It seems like this really is common sense, but unfortunately it is not to most parents. I don't know of any child who doesn't watch TV. Read the AAP recommendations at the bottom of the review to understand why this concerns me. Of course, this is not just about television, the media culture that surrounds our children extends to the toys they play with, the books they read, and even the food they eat. 

Recommended for: I highly recommend this book to any parent. It will open up your eyes to the industry-generated culture that surrounds your children every day. It also will not leave you hopeless, about 80% of the book gives practical advice for creating a stronger bond between you and your children. It would also be a good read for family counselors, psychologists, teachers, homeschooling families, and grandparents. 

Thought provoking excerpts:
From the foreword by Diane Dreher, Ph.D.: "In one of the saddest examples in this book, a third grade teacher says that many of her students cannot play creatively. Unable to make up their own stories or imagine their own futures, they can only repeat stories about cartoon characters or the exploits of the latest action hero. What will become of a country when its young people can no longer dream?"

"What would happen if much of those 1,825 hours every year we spend watching TV were spent with our children and in our communities creatively addressing the environmental crisis, teen suicide, crime, homelessness? Why are screen machines considered normal background noise seven hours and forty-four minutes each day for most American households when their content has so little to do with the daily lives of the individuals watching, or not watching, as the case may be?"

"Why aren't first graders talking about the latest artwork they drew or the poetry they composed? Why are they talking about the cartoon they watched before school and the TV program they must watch after school? Why are many teens today preoccupied with how closely their bodies match the male and female models in magazines they read more than with their own creative process? Rather than being attentive to their own inner lives, their own creative expressions, and to the people who love them, too much of our children's and teens' attention is focused by corporate agendas. The industry-generated culture captures our kids' interests, often replacing their own inner voices."

Facts and research: The book points out that the latest scientific research does conclude that excessive exposure to screen media distorts brain development. In the first 5 years of a child's life this is especially crucial. If they do not learn to develop healthy relationships with real human they will face problems with learning and relating to the real world in the future. Here are some more statistics from the book:

"Unless you are searching for the scholarly studies you would not know that there are over 3,000 studies demonstrating the negative influence of media violence. Yet, there persists a major gap between what is known about the effects of media violence and the actual news reports about these effects. In the chart below you can see that 'as the state of scientific knowledge supporting a significant and causal link between media violence and aggression grew stronger, news media reports actually grew weaker.'"
Get this, did you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 0 hours of screen time for babies under 2 years old? That's right. ZERO. None. Nada. You're not going to hear that on TV! For children above two the recommendation is no more than one to two hours per day. That includes television, internet, computer games - i.e. all screen time. It's not a random recommendation. The fact is, pediatricians can no longer ignore the latest brain research and its implications. "Dr. Robert Hill and Dr. Eduardo Castro, authors of the book, Getting Rid of Ritalin, recommend no television before the age of five. Having conducted on-going research and investigation into the matter, they state in no uncertain terms, 'We can say with confidence that excessive television, particularly in young children, causes neurological damage. TV watching causes the brain to slow down, producing a constant pattern of low-frequency brain waves consistent with ADD behavior.' "

A must read for every parent, especially if you have a TV and internet! A must read for every parent, especially if you have a TV and internet! A must read for every parent, especially if you have a TV and internet! A must read for every parent, especially if you have a TV and internet!

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August 01, 2010
Great review. Sounds like a book that every new parent should take a look at. I agree with that 3rd grade teacher that endless exposure to the boob tube stifles a childs ability to make their own fun. Thanks for letting us know about this extremely important book.
August 01, 2010
You're welcome Paul! I do hope many new parents read it.
May 25, 2010
great review!! I just shared in with my Facebook friends .. sounds like a must-read for both parents and educators. also makes me feel not so neurotic for doing everything I can to keep my daughter from watching TV ; ) when it's the societal norm, it's so hard to make a different choice.
May 27, 2010
Thanks! Yes, it seems like with so many parenting practices I'm always going against the 'societal norm'! :)
More Parenting Well in a Media Age:... reviews
Quick Tip by . June 10, 2010
Good Book, Great Story, Interesting, catchy, gets you involved every chapter
Quick Tip by . May 20, 2010
Please do yourself and your kids a favor and read this book, especially if you have little ones under 5 years old. You'll thank me later! :)
About the reviewer
Anastasia B ()
Ranked #23
I am a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a friend, a Christ follower, an Interior Designer, a blog author, a cook, an artist, an eco-conscious consumer, a nature lover, … more
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About this book


This illuminating investigation takes a fresh look at the role of media in children's lives. An overview of the formidable challenges parents face and creative ways to overcome them are included, as are strategies for turning a home environment from "high-tech" to "high-touch." Moving beyond demonizing the media, this work, like none before it, articulates the difficulties of parenting in our depersonalized society. It offers hopeful alternatives for all parents wanting to protect children from, and teach children about, media's impact.
Gloria DeGaetano is the founder of the Parent Coaching Institute and the author of Screen Smarts: A Family Guide to Media Literacy and Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie, and Video Game Violence. She lives in Bellevue, Washington.
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ISBN-10: 1932181121
ISBN-13: 978-1932181128
Author: Diane Dreher PhD, Gloria DeGaetano
Publisher: Personhood Press

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