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Posts tagged ‘parents’

The Sedentary Life

An article from Time by staff writer Alice Park focuses on the physical health effects of kids’ television viewing. The article summarizes the findings of researchers from the US and Spain who studied inactivity in 111 children ranging from 3 to 8 years old. The researchers found that of television, Internet and video games, television is the worst for kids. They found that kids who watch excessive television are more likely to have higher blood pressure, even if they’re at a healthy weight.

Kid watching TV on the couch, eating potato chips (click for source)

What makes television worse than other sedentary activities? The findings suggest that kids watching television are likely to be eating unhealthy snacks, which could explain the rise in blood pressure. They also note that watching television right before bed stimulates kids’ minds and keeps them up. This lack of sleep affects metabolism and can cause weight gain.

While the main concerns of parents about television in the 1950s was the morality and emotional effects of television, rather than its physical effects. Family values were also central to television rhetoric. “In advice literature of the period, mass media became a central focus of concern as experts told parents how to control and regulate media in ways that promoted family values,” writes Spigel in “Seducing the Innocent.” Spigel and modern parents have similar concerns, however, when it comes to turning off the tube. Concern for kids with the “telebugeye” came about along with concerns for kids “habits of hygiene, nutrition and decorum” (p. 147). Parents have feared the effects on kids’ television-viewing habits since television’s invention, but now they have there is evidence of how detrimental “vegging out” in front of the TV can be.

For a post on the same article, please see Mira’s blog post.

Who Needs Board Games?

In an attempt to make up for the lost profits in the fourth quarter of 2011, and stay with the evolving times, popular toy companies like Mattel and Hasbro are adding technology into recent editions of classic toys.  In an article from the New York Times entitled “Go Directly, Digitally to Jail? Classic Toys Learn New Clicks,” Stephanie Clifford, documents the integration of technology into the most historically loved toys.

Hot Wheels no longer need to travel along tracks of small pieces that that children slaved away putting together, instead the newest cars have sensors and move across an iPad screen.  Remember the game of Life, and the spinner that went up to ten instead of the traditional six on dice? Remember the excitement that would come across a child’s face as the ticking sound slowed before the coveted ten space spin? Well that can now be done on the iPad too! Who needs to physically spin the wheel?  Better yet, remember the kid who cheats and lies about how much money he had accumulated during a game of Monopoly? That won’t happen anymore because now the virtual monopoly counts your money for you! When I was growing up Barbie and her plethora of outfits was enough to occupy my time for hours, but perhaps watching their parents’ excessive use of technology has taught kids that imagination and dolls are not enough.  Mattel has now inserted a digital camera onto Barbie’s stomach with software to upload the photos and videos onto a computer.

While it is hard to say what Stephanie Clifford thinks of this parallel evolution of toys with technology, as it is more of an informative piece and less of an editorial, it is easy to see that the benefits technology brings, also brings significant problems. Just as we discussed in class after reading the Rad Bradbury short story “The Veldt,” children who become dependent on technology for entertainment lose out on the imagination and play that is essential to what we think of when we think of a child.  Monopoly wasn’t just a game to see who could collect the most money, but it also taught basic mathematic skills that are eliminated when the child no longer has to count their own money.  Additionally Monopoly was a social game, a family game, and now who needs family or friends when you can play against a computer! Remember how boring it would be when you had to wait for someone else to take his or her turn?  That too can be eliminated while playing with a computer! You can fast forward through their turn!

You definitely lose out not having board games be the way they used to, it is amazing how young kids can use the technology so efficiently.  The father in the YouTube video below seems to think the benefits and educational games that iPads and technology offer, could outweigh the loss of mathematics and socialization.

Video from YouTube of a 2 year old efficiently using an iPad and playing an educational game

What Kids, or People, Should NOT Be Watching

With all the parents organizations and committees telling other parents what is appropriate for their kids to watch, the kids are stuck watching some really dumb shows.  According to the Parents Television Council the number one show that kids should be allowed to watch is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.  Parents are always concerned with the content of shows, but this show, I believe has absolutely no educational value and barely any entertaining content, unless you think a grown man [Ty Pennington] crying and acting like a fool every five seconds is entertainment.  The show focuses on the carpenter Ty Pennington, who builds houses for the less fortunate.  The premise of the show seems as if it would be teaching kids good moral values such as giving to those who are less fortunate which is good and all but many of those people end up losing the house within the year because they cannot afford the house payments and the cost to maintain the houses are extremely high.  The dialogue of the show is also poorly written, if at all, and it comes out sounding very cheesy.  I believe shows like this cause people to become less intelligent and I would rather have my kids watch The Simpsons or Family Guy especially if I had to watch the shows with them.

The show deemed worst for kids to watch was Family Guy.  I do believe that some of the content of the show is somewhat inappropriate, but a lot of it goes over the kid’s heads anyway, and the dialogue is actually entertaining.  The show might make fun of pop culture in a sometimes vulgar way but they usually do it cleverly.  Family Guy can be pretty witty at times compared to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.  The writers for Family Guy at least seem intelligent and I would rather have my kids watch a show written well.  I watched this show when I was younger with my brother and I know that I was never affected negatively by what I was seeing and hearing.

Spigel states in Welcome to the Dreamhouse that “mass media have been seen as a threatening force that circulates forbidden secrets to children,” but parents cannot shield their kids from everything they consider to be inappropriate all the time, they will learn these “secrets” eventually and when they do it does not mean that the kids will becomes delinquents, chances are most kids will turn out completely fine.  I do not advocate passive parenting, but with all the shows that are seen as inappropriate by overprotective parents, kids will eventually have nothing to watch.

Family Guy from google images

“A Separation” Foreign troubles with Child Actors

Movie poster of Best Foreign Oscar Winning Film, "A Separation" (2011). Directed by Asghar Farhardi

In the national news section of Houston’s official news website in an article entitled “Oscar Foreign Directors not Daunted by Kid Actors”, an award-winning director of Iranian films, Asghar Farhadi, talks on the troubles of working with his daughter in his current Oscar-nominated film, “A Separation.” Eleven year old Sarin Farhadi plays “an estranged Iranian couples child.” Sarin’s father Asghar says his daughter “was the most difficult person to work with on the film.” The article described Sarin to be “the biggest diva on the set.” While Farhadi humorously talked on the troubles of working with his daughter he also gave some insight when working with child actors. The article explained that he “doesn’t completely explain the plots of his movies to child actors “and believes the less they know the better they do. This, he explained, was probably why it was difficult working with his daughter. She was already too engrossed in the story of the film. In other words, she knew too much to be natural.

I chose this national news article particularly because of the director’s quotes on his experience working with child actors and the approach he takes when they are involved in his films. When reading this, I immediately thought of the Shirley Temple reading “Behind Shirley Temple’s Smile: Children, Emotional Labor, and the Great Depression.” There seems to be an overarching agreement between movie producers, directors, and those involved in film making in their belief that children are better on the big screen when they are “natural” and “innocent.” In the reading, Kasson includes a statement from Shirley Temple’s mother in which she states, “I want her (Shirley) to be natural, innocent, sweet. If she ceases to be that I shall have lost her-and motion pictures will have lost her too” (136). It seems likely that Asghar Farhadi would concur with this theory. With his daughter being an important child actor within his Oscar-nominated foreign film, his opinions, and that of Gertrude Temple seem closely connected. Just as the directors in Kasson’s article argue of the dangers of Shirley becoming “spoiled” and resulting in her innocence wiped from her smile, Farhadi seemed to be stuck in the same situation when his daughter became the “diva” on set.

Not only does this news article present a current view of a director’s approach and experience with child acting, but it creates a correlation between past and present ideals on children in film. It also bridges the borders between America and foreign countries when relating viewpoints of child acting.


Sexy Simoleans

The first Sims game released in 2010

Growing up, I enjoyed playing video games that made me feel like I was watching a movie. That is, I appreciated games with a specific plot that allowed me to participate. The Sims is an interactive computer and video game that basically allows players to simulate daily activities of people in a suburban household. It was developed by Maxis for Windows in 2000 and cost about $60. The game has since been released on MAC, PlayStation, Xbox and GameCube.

To summarize the game is relatively simple. Players, first, get to design each member of the family. You choose their name, skin color, clothes, face, ect. You then spend time in “build mode” designing every detail of the home from size to wallpaper to windows. Once the structure is complete, the player enters “buy mode” and spends money purchasing furniture for the home. Finally, you can enter “live mode” where you essentially become the Sim. You control everything your character does including going to work, going to the bathroom, eating, and interacting with others. The characters also work on building skills such as reading and creativity as well as making sure their needs are met such as satiety and sleep. As the player, it is also your duty to maintain your finances and take care of children if you choose to have them. Many people would say that this sounds like a game that could teach children life skills but there has been some controversy involved with this game over the years. When the game was first released, it was not well censored.

Sims Trailer

When players develop relationships with each other, it is possible for that connection to progress into a sexual one. In the current version, when this occurs, the act is blurred out so nothing can be seen, However, in the original version, this censorship did not exist. There was also a recent “bug” that caused this suppression to fail. The culprit was likely one of the people who have been asking Google, “How do I take the censor off?” Apparently, there is a “Nude Patch” that players can download to be able to permit their Sims to bear it all (for whatever reason). Needless to say, this is the sort of loss of innocence in the common child is exactly what Stearns describes when he says, “…parents worried deeply, if not always effectively, about their degree of control over the entertainment their children received, and about the appropriateness of the entertainment offered.” (Course Packet p. 6)

“Players can allow public nudity, fondling of partners’ buttocks while kissing (both of the same and opposite sex), characters burning to death, and even polygamy (a male can marry numerous females, but a female can marry only one man). Could this game be teaching sexism?”

Appropriateness aside, The Sims continues to maintain popularity from girls and boys of all ages. The have since released multiple Sims continuation games including House Party, Unleashed, Hot Date, Vacation, and Superstar. The franchise has sold more than 100 million copies and I’m not ashamed to admit I am the face of 3 of those!

Bringing Up Baby

Tom Ashbrook’s show On Point challenges the notion that there are universals in parenting in last Tuesday’s episode, “Bringing Up Baby.” He interviewed Pamela Druckerman, author of Bringing up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, and developmental psychologist, Jennifer Lansford.

The French focus on a balance between parenting and being adults. According to Druckerman, parents interfere less with their child’s experiences, believing that “kids and adults need space and privacy to cultivate their inner lives.”

Peter Stearns, in the chapter from Anxious Parents entitled “I’m Bored”, explains how much of modern American parenting is a response to children’s boredom and the guilt felt by parents to entertain them.

"It was so easy to think of food as a legitimate reward for being a child when a parent was too busy to offer more elaborate entertainments or felt guilty about not having enough time to spend." (p. 25) (click for source)

Druckerman’s discussion of children’s food made me reflect on my childhood. My poor mom must have had such a hard task pleasing my very picky sister and me. She likes to joke that always if one of us liked a meal, the other wouldn’t. Druckerman says that there are no kids foods in France. Kids inevitably won’t like every food they’re given, so parents just require them to taste the food. The American way, in contrast, is indulgence. Peter Stearns, in his book Anxious Parents, argues, “Tolerance of children’s eating habits… resulted from the real commitment to providing pleasure” (p. 25). In other words, eating is another way to entertain kids.

The perceived frailty of American children is discussed both by Druckerman and Stearn. Druckerman says that French children are more autonomous, and French parents are more comfortable setting boundaries.

Childrearing beliefs are strongly tied to the culture they are found in. I think Stearn’s observation of parents’ obsession with entertaining their children are reflected in our society’s own entertainment consumption habits among adults.


A "Goosebumps" series favorite among readers.


The Goosebumps book series is a mammoth collection of children’s horror novels published by youth literature giant Scholastic and written by author R. L. Stine (real name Jovial Bob Stine) between 1992 and 1997. The series rocketed to popularity and inspired a few spin-off book series as well as a TV show that had me glued to the set in the same vein of programs like Are You Afraid of the Dark and So Weird. While the series is supposedly intended for middle school readers (or older readers in terms of some of the spin-offs), I seem to recall there being a certain pride and competition in comparing the number of Goosebumps books in your repertoire early in elementary school while cautiously avoiding the eyes of disapproving teachers.

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