I was 6 years old when my family got our first TV. Mom would only let us watch The Mickey Mouse Club. I remember the excitement at 5 o’clock when the show would begin – and then the feeling of letdown when it was over. Then Mom would say, “GO OUT AND PLAY!”
She limited us to a half hour a day, sensing that too much could become addicting, something that scientific research has clearly shown.
Why is ‘TV’ so much fun? When exposed to electronic media, our brains are flooded by a rush of dopamine, whether cartoons, video games or other forms of passive entertainment.
Dopamine is the reward neurochemical that elevates our mood, allows us to feel joy, become motivated, and gives us the readiness to act. Unfortunately, when the excitement is not ‘burned off’ through physical activity, frustration and anxiety can follow. An endless bombardment to media exposure can cause diminishing returns. Our Dopamine receptors become blocked, gradually allowing less and less in, making us need stronger ‘doses’ to get the same thrill we got originally.
The same mechanism happens with overeating, which can lead to Type II diabetes. When we eat, Insulin is released, telling a cell to open to receive the ‘food’ (glucose). After exposure to too much sugar, insulin receptors will stop responding, and though our blood may be overloaded with glucose, the cells will not open to utilize it and turn it into energy. This causes a feeling of continual hunger and fatigue, as well as other problems as the excess sugar that’s floating through our clogs our organs.
Whether food or media, there’s only so much we can handle, before our body says, ‘NO.”
It’s no wonder so many children are beset by ADHD, obesity and other problems these days. Though it seems obvious that too much media, junk food and lack of exercise could be hurting them (and us) we are loathe to admit it, because we are enjoying the convenience of just sitting the kids in front of the TV.
Luckily, there are ways to get around the dopamine-blocking effects of too much media.
Not surprising, according to studies, the answer is: Exercise, Good Diet, Meditation and controlling our exposure to addictive substances. This can restore our dopamine receptors to their healthy state, allowing us start enjoying our lives again.
I am not one of those that say ‘NO’ to all electronic media. To me, MODERATION is the answer. Unfortunately, until a child is old enough to develop SELF Control, it’s up to the parent to train a child in good habits of media use. But that’s hard. There’s no easy way. The jailer is a prisoner, too.
Long before EDU DESIGNS was incorporated in 2007, I had a dream: To help children gain wisdom for living.
The important influences on children have long been: Family, School, and Friends. But when Television came on the scene, it became both a new friend and also an enemy, opening Pandora’s box to a world of things you can’t ‘un-see’ once you’ve seen them. People you would never let into your house enter through that window if you allow them.
As a parent of 7 children, I saw what the wrong kinds of TV shows could do to my children’s behavior from fine to frenetic in a matter of minutes. I needed to watch with them, to see it from their eyes. If a program’s ‘excitement’ caused emotional distress we would have to discuss it so they could process their feelings before they could be calm again. Many times I would wonder why I ever let them watch the program in the first place. And choose something else the next time.
My aim is to use media’s powerful instructional ability to teach valuable lessons while protecting a child’s vulnerable heart and mind from harm. That’s why I’ve created an art textbook for kids, to develop their brains and hearts through hands-on activities.
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I am grateful for everyone who has already given us a review. Your thoughtfulness will help us reach more children, parents and teachers who need it.
Ruth Elliott-Hilsdon, Founder and Director of EDU DESIGNS
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