Kids are products of the world around them“She’s got her father’s eyes and her mother’s smile….” How often we hear similar phrases uttered after the birth of a new baby as friends and family study every minute detail of the new infant’s appearance and mannerisms.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
“She’s got her father’s eyes and her mother’s smile….”
How often we hear similar phrases uttered after the birth of a new baby as friends and family study every minute detail of the new infant’s appearance and mannerisms.
And as much as we’d like to think that a newborn is the sum of the parts delivered to it through the genes and chromosomes of its parents, it’s important to face the fact that there is much that comes from the world around the new baby that will impact much about who or what he or she becomes. Many of those things can be controlled – if only we are aware of them and take them to heart.
For example, after years of denying a potential link between artificial food coloring and behavior problems, this week we learned in the news that the federal government may be reversing its stance. The Food and Drug Administration will hold hearings on the subject to determine whether the additives found in brightly colored foods, such as Fruit Loops, Jell-O, Twinkies and even packaged macaroni and cheese, may worsen conditions such as hyperactivity disorder in certain children. On one Wednesday morning news program, a mother talked of how, when her child started showing signs of hyperactivity, she immediately cut out all pre-processed food containing artificial dyes and she claimed that within two weeks her child stopped acting out in school and even his handwriting went from a frenzied scrawl to neatly rounded letters.
Whether the possible tie-in proves to have merit will hopefully be determined by the Food and Drug Administration’s investigation, but in the meantime, it’s certainly something that can be regulated to some extent in the diets of our children.
Earlier this month, the results of a nationwide study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation were made public regarding the amount of time young people between the ages of 8 and 18 are spending interacting with digital media. Study results showed that those young people spend an average of seven and a half hours a day watching television, working on computers, talking or texting on their cell phones or listening to iPods and other MP3 players. What’s more, many of those same young people multitask while using such media, increasing the equivalent hours of media use to over 10 hours daily.
Many would no doubt argue that digital media use is becoming increasingly necessary for young people to succeed in today’s world. Few could argue with that premise – to an extent – but there is also a price to pay unless close attention is paid to how such use is regulated.
The Kaiser study pointed to the fact that the majority of young people reported having few, if any, restrictions on how much time they spend with digital media. In fact, some two-thirds of young people surveyed said the television set is usually on during meals in their household, and just under half reported that the television is left on most of the time, whether anyone is actually watching it or not.
The offshoot of leaving our children to be self-regulating in regard to electronic media use? About half of young people in the survey who deemed themselves “heavy media users” also reported getting fair or poor grades in school.
Other behaviors pointing to overuse of digital media are difficulty relating to others face to face, loss of interest in school, non-responsiveness, and lack of attachment, according to author Lu Hanessian in her book, “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds.”
While most of these studies are still in the speculative stages, it is difficult to ignore their implications. Parents who are aware that outside influences have every bit as powerful an impact as “what’s in the genes” carry a difficult and awesome responsibility toward making them work for – and not against – the wellbeing of their children.