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Archive for February, 2012

Maybe TV Isn’t So Bad After All

While many parents and child-experts agree that television poses several potentially harmful effects, one economist refuses to buy into the argument. Moreover, this is not just any economist, but rather, it is the highly acclaimed, former economic policy advisor of President Obama, Austan Goolsbee.

In a 2006 article published in Slate Magazine, Goolsbee argues that the studies on the impact of television on children are “seriously flawed”, due to their failure to account for more significant social, economic, and environmental variables. Goolsbee claims that because “kids who watch minimal TV, as a group are from much wealthier families than those who watch hours and hours…the less-TV kids have all sorts of things going for them that have nothing to do with the impact of television.” In defense of this claim, Goolsbee cites the research of his colleagues, Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro, who, upon evaluating the 1966 Coleman Report, were unable to find any correlation between poor test-scores and television viewership. In fact, the research suggests that if anything, there was “a small positive uptick in test scores for kids who got to watch more television when they were young.”

This article comes in stark contrast to the opinions that have been voiced throughout television’s history, which although recognizing the potentially beneficial effects of TV, have been largely negative. As Lynn Spigel states in her book Welcome to the Dreamhouse, one of the greatest concerns regarding television was “its dissemination of debased knowledge and its related encouragement of passive minds and bodies” (147)—an argument Goolsbee would dismiss as entirely subjective.

The increasing debates in society today about the failures of our public educational system, as well as socioeconomic factors such as the dramatic increase in single parent families, have also become a large part of the conversation regarding the intellectual development of children, showing that TV is far from the only talking point concerning the welfare of children. In addition, new technologies which have created much more of a reliance on electronic communication have also broadened the discussion beyond the effects of TV to the overall effects of a media and technologically driven society.

Affects of TV on Kids

 

As a child, I spent a lot of my time watching television.  It was kind of a baby sitter because my mother was really sick when I was growing up.  My twin sister and I used to look forward to shows like Sesame Street or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles .  We used our time watching television as a way to just stay out of trouble, and out of our parents hair, God knows they had more important things to deal with.  In Lynn Spigel’s, Welcome to the Dreamhouse, she quotes one of the first and most influential book-length studies of the affects of television and children, which reported “that by 1961 sixth graders spent almost as much time watching television as they did in school.” These numbers seem staggering, since parents now a days talk about how they used to spend all their time outside, and come down on kids these days because all they want to do is watch television or play video games.  In my opinion, kids now a days spend WAY too much time watching television or on the computer.  Kids are suppose to be outside running around, getting into trouble, and staying active. According to kidshealth.org, kids and teens 8 to 18 years spend nearly 4 hours a day in front of a TV screen and almost 2 additional hours on the computer (outside of schoolwork) and playing video games.  This is most likely contributing to the fact that childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years, according to the Center of Disease Control.

The most important thing to remember is that it is the parents responsibility to limit the time kids spend watching television, and to dictate what their child is doing on a day to day basis.  If you’re kid isn’t active enough, take them outside and kick a soccer ball with them, or take them to the park.  When did it become not fun to go to the park?  When I was a kid I always missed out on that kind of stuff.

Smile! You’re on Barbie camera!

Toys, were the staple of childhood. Whether you played with Transformers, Hot Wheels, action figures, Barbie or GI-Joe’s, the toy required that you use your imagination to create a scenario or plot, with a particular goal in mind that you and your toy could achieve. I am purposely using past tense for this description because kids have become so absorbed with today’s technology that toys no longer require the extensive thinking and imagination that they one did.

The New York Times wrote an article on how toys have changed, and once MSNBC.com caught ahold of it, Stephanie Clifford wrote an update version of the article. “Classic toys are becoming much less classic because of upgrades meant to entertain technology-obsessed children.” Stephanie explains that the reason for children growing up with the desire to be more technological is because they see all the gadgets that their parents are playing with and operating. The main attraction that they are writing about is the new Barbie. The new Barbie has become a digital camera, her camera lens in behind her and the picture then appears on her t-shirt. The photo can then be uploaded to a phone or a computer. In my opinion this takes away the whole point of Barbie, all that she will be now is a camera, little girls won’t know how to make up a story and have their dolls act it out.

There are a lot of people, myself being one of them, that feel toys and technology should not mix and that children should still have to utilize their imagination. I feel that this new technological advance could cause something similar, just not as extreme, as the moral panic that our society experienced when children became obsessed with comic books. Perhaps this new technological craze that is taking over the toys could stand to resemble how comic books were seen taking over children’s innocense.

A picture showing how Barbie is now becoming a digital camera.

Arthur

 

Growing up I had a lot of people around me, but not that many people my age to play with. As a result I spent many hours watching television. Looking back on all the hours of television that I watched, there was definitely one show that stood out as my favorite, Arthur.

Arthur tells the story of Arthur Read, an eight-year-old anthropomorphized aardvark, and his family as he grows up in Elwood City. The show is based  off of  the picture books created, written, and illustrated by Marc Brown. Arthur has been on the air since September 1996 and as one of the longest-running shows on PBS Kids (according to Wikipedia), has had the special task of remaining relevant to children during a particularly difficult time. Not only are there technological hurdles to compete with, but there are also other television shows.  I believe that even during my elementary/middle school days that Arthur was trying its best to appeal to children my age with issues that affected us. It had the approval of parents because it presented issues in an intelligent manner and maintained  a strong educational element.

I am happy that Arthur  has been on the air as long as it has, because it has tackled a variety of topics and even though it is a program on television, it even discusses the problems associated with watching television -overconsumption of the medium and desensitization for example. In an episode titled “Attack of the Turbo Tibbles” two friends of D.W., Tommy and Timmy Tibble emulate the violence portrayed in a show. Their emulation reaches a breaking point when their violence leads to D.W. getting injured. Similar to The Veldt, the Tibbles have a hard time separating what is real life and what is the life that they wish they had. Their inability to disassociate the violent cartoon show that they watch and the they real life that they are a part result in someone getting hurt.

The interesting parts (and those pertinent to the post are around 9:00 and 10:30. 

Learning in front of a screen

After reading Bradbury’s “The Veldt, I’ve become very weary of the idea of a virtual environment, and upon reading an article on a CNN blog about the growing popularity of virtual classrooms, I was not excited. The article   looked at a seventh grader who utilised a virtual school system to accommodate her rigorous ballet rehearsal schedule. The virtual school was run by K12 Inc., one of the largest virtual teaching companies that creates curriculum for students from Kindergarten through High School. The virtual classroom is mostly used for students who need to work around a normal school schedule, are falling behind in regular classrooms, or just simply don’t fit in a standard setting. The article goes on to question the value of virtual classrooms, considering concerns of socialization, educational achievement, and funding.

From my perspective these virtual learning environments are lacking several components that are key to student development. The most obvious thing missing from this virtual equation is the socialization that is inherent in a “brick and mortar” school. As Chudacoff states in his piece on children’s play, schools are the “incubators of peer groups” and are incredibly important in the socialization of almost all American children. The student interviewed in the article meets with other students once a month, but this is far to little in comparison to the way traditional school systems expose students to others. Another “life lesson” taught in school that doesn’t translate virtually is the idea of discipline that reflects a work environment, such as prompt attendance and rule following. Although the value of these lessons can be contested, their connections to most work environments cannot.

But perhaps the way the 21st century is headed, more and more towards digital environments, having children sit in front of a computer screen for twelve years may not be so different from the way the rest of their lives will look…

Technology in Today’s Toys

According to the article “Go Directly, Digitally to Jail? Classic Toys Learn New Clicks” (Stephanie Clifford, the New York Times, Feb. 25, 2012), retailers in the toy industry are beginning to modernize classic toys by integrating technology into them. Despite the fact that Barbie, Monopoly, and Hot Wheels have sold millions throughout past generations, retailers feel the need to modernize these classic toys. Monopoly can be played on a digital tablet that can count the money, taking away the pain of all the simple math. An iPad screen can now be used to watch Hot Wheels blaze across the track, as if imagination wasn’t enough. And Barbie? Oh, she just has as a camera embedded in her stomach, which allows children to take pictures and even transport the storage files (with the help of parents.)  The cause of these technological advancements is said to be a result of a disappointing 2011 for retailers, including Hasbro and Mattel, as children are wanting more tech-savvy toys, such as the LeapPad LeapFrog Explorer. John Alteio, director of toys and games for Amazon, says the reason kids want modernized toys is because they want to play with toys similar to the gadgets they see their parents using. While many toy retailers are beginning to modernize their toys, some critics think that the trend will soon fade away due to the high price of the toys compared to the toys that are cheaper because of the technology they do not possess.

This ties into our reading of Bradbury’s “The Veldt” focusing on technology taking over children. This is because children are beginning to lose their imagination as technology becomes more and more prominent in their lives. They are upset if they cannot have their tech-savvy toys, such as when the parents take away the technology from the kids in the short story. In order to steer our young generation in the right direction, retailers need to decrease the amount of technology in toys or, like in the story, a bad ending may be inevitable.

Video Girl Barbie

T.V. is Wack, T. V. is Cheap

Young children today are impressionable. They form habits based on what they see and hear others around them do or say. As Television and other media devices become more available to children, this means that they gather information from a wider variety of sources. Though, the information they gather from these sources may not be in the best interests of young children.

 

In my classmate’s post regarding the reading journal prompt “Kids and T.V.”, Morgan Manuel has found an article that expresses some of her mutual concerns about the negative effects television has on young children as they form habits in the early stages of their lives. Her main worries she shares with the author of the article are (1) that television conveys a message of violence toward young minds and can potentially be imitated, (2) the presence of sexual content exposed in certain television programs and (3) that children form unhealthy habits or become lazy as a direct result of watching too much television.

 

Morgan has connected her points to examples present in Ray Bradburry’s The Veldt in the course reading packet. She makes valid points about how the violence present in television today is related to the violent acts experienced in the futuristic house, the setting of Bradburry’s short story. Also, Morgan also points out the effects of laziness that television has on children when she connects the laziness and dependence on the nursery that has driven the children in the story to murder their parents to ensure the safety of their lazy ways. The children are disrespectful, defiant, and even harmful to their parents.  Although I could not find instances of sexual behavior blatantly expressed in the text, Bradburry explains that the electronic room in the story became a channel towards destructive thoughts for the children (167).

 

Here is a little anecdotal aside about Kids and T.V. courtesy of Willy Wonka and the Oompa Loompas.