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Futile report? Pediatricians advise limiting kids to 2 hours on internet, TV

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 28th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In what could be characterized as the most futile report ever, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids should limit their time in front of electronic devices to no more than 2 hours per day. Like many fantastic recommendations, this one is DOA.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pediatricians have warned for decades that children should not watch so much TV, or spend all of their time in front of the computer. Instead, children should play outside, do a few chores, be involved in extracurricular activities and engage directly with their families.

While this is an excellent idea, it is also an exercise in futility. Kids lead wired lives, often following in their parent's footsteps. As the parents browse Facebook and Pinterest at the dinner table (yes, it happens) kids learn such behavior is okay.

Years ago, kids might fill suburban yards and urban playgrounds with their shouts and activities, playing sports, or shooting one another with toy weapons. Today, the once common activity of kids playing outside has become more of an anachronism as they trade real flesh-and-blood experiences for superficial, virtual interactions in the online realm.

Many are joined by their parents who may sometimes play the very same games.

It's easy to criticize this behavior, however it should be understood that video games, social networking sites, and other popular media are designed to be addictive with designers often employing psychologists to help develop their products.

How often have you misplaced your iPhone and suffered a mini-heart attack? Laugh if you will--or cry, but many Americans can relate to this reaction. Not because the device could be lost, but rather people feel lost without their devices.

Although electronics have legitimate uses for both adults and children, the line between legitimate use and abuse is quite thin. Generally speaking, many people, especially kids, choose to interact electronically when they might be better served doing some other activity. Yet, kids get addicted, just like their parents.

Last week, a 17-year-old girl in India hanged herself after her parents denied her permission to log onto her Facebook account. Her suicide note explained her devastation to investigators and her parents. Yes, this actually happened.

As for adults, the media is no less inhibiting. Texting-while-driving is a serious offense, not to mention dangerous, but happens with great regularity. Employees burn precious time at the workplace interacting with their phones as opposed to working. Our couch-potato, sedentary lifestyle is possibly one of the leading contributing factors to heart disease and obesity in our country.

How many dinners now take place before a switched-on television?

At the same time we acknowledge the folly of gadget addiction, we are also immersed in a world that now assumes every adult has a smartphone and every adult is online. Commercial advertisements on television often refer people to social media to continue their marketing integration with the viewer.

Schools have been convinced by firms such as Apple and Google that kids learn best with technology integrated into the curriculum. Many major school districts and private schools already issue students iPads for classroom use.

Indeed, internet-wired technology is becoming quite standard and ubiquitous. So much so that children, even less than a year old, are using tablets and playing on smartphones, swiping their fingers across screens to play games and draw.

While this is excellent preparation for an online world, it is also cannibalizing time for genuine human interaction. It's also leading people to sedentary lives starting from infancy.

Perhaps the most ironic perspective is found in the pages of Don Quixote, published in 1605, written by Miguel Cervantes. "Our gentleman became so immersed in his reading that he spent whole nights from sundown to sunup and his days from dawn to dusk in poring over his books, until, finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind" (I, 1, pp. 26-27).

Perhaps these devices are the modern equivalent of the books of Cervantes's day-so we pray. If so, then any plan to resist them will have as much success as campaigns to control books.

A birth foretold: click here to learn more!

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