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Secondhand smoke, meet secondhand TV

Secondhand smoke, meet secondhand TV

Posted: Friday, October 28, 2011 7:01 pm

My wife and I took a certain perverse pride in how we handled television around our son, scrupulously not letting him watch for the first two years of his life. Now we find that may not have been enough.
We knew not to plop a toddler down in front of the boob tube and use it as a babysitter, but now the American Academy of Pediatrics for the first time has included warnings about “secondhand television” in its guidelines for kids younger than age 2. In short, if toddlers are in the room while adults are watching TV (no matter how innocuous the content), they’re being affected.
Yes, even if youngsters aren’t actively watching TV, its presence can hurt their language development. As drug guru Timothy SHOULD have said, “Turn on, tune in, drop SYLLABLES.” Do we really want automated messages of “Press one for English, press two for Spanish, press three for whatever those inarticulate grunts are”?
I know this guilt trip is the last thing young parents need. If you can’t even relax with the idiot box, it seems your life is over. Of course, if the only thing that helps you survive a grueling day at work is seeing Alaskan pawn shop owners break into dance because they’ve found an unknown vocal talent who is also a superb chef, your life is probably over anyway.
Unfortunately, the presence of a TV in the room can distract children from their normal playtime activities. Grownup viewing can stop youngsters from pulling the cat’s tail, using markers on the wallpaper, leaving a trail of cereal…Hold on. I’m searching for a point here.
Child development experts tell us that TV robs us of invaluable interaction with our offspring. (“Parents need to talk to their toddlers, read to their toddlers, sing to their toddlers. Parents need to…put a rubber chicken between their knees and …ha ha, this is killing me…cluck like they’ve laid an egg! Man, I’m glad I’m childless!”)
It is imperative that we prepare youngsters for eyeball-to-eyeball adulthood by personally lavishing attention on them. That way when they’re grown-ups they’ll be ready to sit in a cubicle and call up folks 5,000 miles away in order to tout the benefits of replacement doggie doors.
Of course, the nanny state is salivating at the chance to intervene in this matter. If your kids develop those blank, unfocused stares, there’s a government bureaucrat who will be overjoyed to pitch in and say, “Sorry. Wrong window.”
The new policy statement by the academy must be unnerving to the broadcast industry. DVRs are nice, but you can time-shift only so much fare before you fall asleep buying the sponsor’s products. At least parents will have something to tell their little only child. (“Why don’t you have a little brother or sister? 11 p.m. Wheel of Fortune. 11 p.m. Wheel of Fortune, son.”)
But, seriously, parents-make plans to reevaluate the goings on in your family room to maximize your child’s potential. In the meantime, yearn for those halcyon days of the Greatest Generation, when they could overhear FDR’s fireside chats on Mom and Dad’s radio and absorb invaluable lessons such as “We have nothing to fear except you &%$# kids getting on the lawn itself!”
©2011 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes reader email responses at and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”. Danny’s’ weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.  Published in The Messenger 10.28.11


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