Comedian Harry Doupe used to have a great line in his act, “A new study says that consuming mass quantities of alcohol makes people more likely to engage in casual sex. Of course, we’ve known this for hundreds of years, but I’m glad there’s a study now. Because I’m tired of buying drinks on hearsay.”
Sometimes a new study comes out in the parenting world that really makes me shake my head and think, “Do the people who do these studies not have children? Were they never babysitters?”
Sure enough, another new study – this one coming out of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute – studied 565 parents in Seattle and found that the ones whose kids watched more violent TV shows had kids with more behavioral problems.
As many studies do, this one likely takes up dozens of pages, and is probably downloadable on the Internet for $50 or so. Let me sum up the study for you and save you the money: Duh.
I suppose that if anything, the study confirms some things that we already know:
Sometimes, life imitates art
I remember being about 12 years old and seeing a movie that featured a martial arts scene. On the way home (in those days, we walked the three miles to and from the theater, usually at night), my friends Paul, Ian and I had suddenly been imbued with the skills of a master ninja, and we did our best air kicks and “yaaaaaa” screams all the way home. Younger children are exactly the same. If the hero in a show they’re watching uses brawn versus brains to solve a problem, they start to see violence as the answer – and something the good guys do. Asking a toddler to differentiate which situations justify violence is asking a little much.
Buy bigger furniture
You’ve heard it said before that the TV shouldn’t be used as a babysitter. Children’s TV has gotten a lot more “hip” since we were kids. If your kids are the right age, sit down with them and watch a few episodes of Phineas & Ferb and you’ll see what I mean. And when you watch with them, you get to shape the messages their receiving, and pass them through the filter of what’s appropriate for your family.
TV isn’t the problem
There’s plenty of good TV for kids. Recently I mentioned how as a child I spent all of a few days in Kindergarten, because in the first week the school decided I’d spent so much time glued to Sesame Street that even the Grade One curriculum might not be challenging enough. So it’s not television that’s the problem. It’s trusting the screen to do your parenting for you that leads to issues down the road.
My very strong hunch is that if you’re engaged enough to read parenting articles from places like TheLoop.ca and the myriad other sites out there, this study offered you virtually nothing new, except maybe confirmation that the rules haven’t changed all that much. Sure enough, the word “parent” can still be used as a verb.