The London Daily Mail is reporting that—brace yourself—too much television, and time spent on the internet, can make children mentally ill. Excessive exposure makes a child materialistic, it turns out, which in turn affects their relationship with their parents and their health. The report claims that British children are part of a new form of consumerism, and that some advertisers 'explicitly exploit the mechanism of peer pressure, while painting parents as buffoons' and that—in its most extreme form—advertising persuades children that 'you are what you own'. Of course, we could spend several hours talking about how American television programs (like Disney’s Drake and Josh and CBS’ Two and a Half Men) consistently portray men and boys as oversexed cartoon caricatures, but that’s for another day.
In addition, the Daily Mail story on the study by the British charity Children’s Society reports that the 'constant exposure' to celebrities through, TV soaps, dramas and chat shows is having a detrimental effect. 'Children today know in intimate detail the lives of celebrities who are richer than they will ever be, and mostly better-looking. This exposure inevitably raises aspirations and reduces self-esteem.' The study concludes that, 'Other things being equal, the more a child is exposed to the media (television and internet), the more materialistic she becomes, the worse she relates to her parents, and the worse her mental health.'
As shocking as these findings may seem to the English, such ill effects of kids’ total screen time has been status quo here ‘across the pond’ for a generation. TVs, DVDs, internet social networking, texting, video games, mp3 players—all have combined to create a strange sort of ‘virtual existence’ for many of our kids. They’re connected, not to each other, but to each other’s “eLife”…and the results have been devastating. Not always in ways we can quantify (like abortion statistics and bad grades), but in the very personal and unscientific collapse of the American family.
Perhaps the genie is truly out of the bottle, and we can’t completely rescue our generation. But we can take a step in the right direction. That’s why I’ve turned off my TV for the month of February. How about you?