Life in the U.S. is out of balance
I see methamphetamine addiction as one symptom of a wider problem of addiction that permeates the entire culture. And one piece of this problem is television.
I think most Americans are addicted to TV and are unwittingly producing addicted children. Children watch TV and computer screens from morning to night, at home and school. Even tiny children are enrolled in video clubs. There are TVs in bedrooms, bars, banks, hospital waiting rooms, and now cars.
Do your children complain, “I’m bored?” By and large, children did not sit around being bored before TV came into our lives. Children played, and when they were tired out from playing, they lay down in the grass, looked up at the clouds, and wondered about things.
Children today, and their parents, are addicted to “watching” and don’t know what to do without something to watch. Even stay-at-home parents drive the kids all over, frantically trying to keep them (and, perhaps, themselves) from being bored. Older teachers say “today’s kids are bright but they have difficulty paying attention; they have a constant need to be entertained.”
In one night of TV, there are several gruesome murders and so-called “approved for all ages” previews of horror films, terrifying to children. Sexuality content pushes the limits. We watch thousands of commercials manipulating us to want to be different then we are and buy things that will make us more sexy and powerful.
Do your children have bad dreams? Food problems? Do your 5-year-olds worry about what they wear? Move in sexually suggestive ways? These behaviors may be common, but they’re not healthy. They’re indications of anxiety and confused values.
I observe that children addicted to TV and other forms of watching are overstimulated, lack resilience and patience, and are more likely to use drugs such as methamphetamines or drinking or sex or food to handle the emptiness and anxiety.
In “primitive” cultures, special care is taken to teach skills and values to young people. In our culture, we inadvertently teach our children to be passive watchers. Interactive video games? Better, but they are becoming more brutal.
At a congressional public health summit in July 2000, prominent health organizations stated that more than 1,000 studies and 30 years of research has lead to findings that children who see a lot of violence are:
• More likely to view violence as an effective way of settling conflicts.
• More likely to assume violence is acceptable behavior.
• More likely to engage in violent and aggressive behavior later in life.
• Less likely to take action on behalf of a victim of violence.
Entertainment violence feeds a perception that the world is a mean place, increasing the fear of becoming a victim of violence, with a resultant increase in self-protective behaviors and mistrust of others and an addictive need to view more violence.
I am frightened for America’s future. Is our electorate too bored to learn about the complexities of the world? Too fearful to be wise? So conditioned that we automatically turn to violence when we’re frightened? This is a dangerous prospect for a country that has such overwhelming military power. (It is a dangerous prospect for home life.)
Parents! Take a hard look at the life you’re providing for your children. Let’s strengthen home life: have meals together, discuss the news, go for walks, have family picnics, toss a ball around in the driveway, and go to our religious centers together. Children need to do real work in and around the house and develop real skills.
Little children need just a few toys that lend themselves to imaginative play, e.g., blocks or toy cars, and they need opportunities to play undisturbed.
Gently (don’t blame them for their addiction) but firmly take TVs out of the kids’ bedrooms. Keep it out of the car! Set a limit for TV and computer watching, both for time and content. Don’t allow small children to watch at all.
But … even if you heed this warning and decide to return your home to sanity, don’t expect your children to thank you. If they are addicted, and they probably are, they will suffer from withdrawal symptoms. They will feel uneasy, bored, and they may frantically try to find a fix to calm their anxiety. They will need your support.
Television and computers can be wonderful. They key to their proper use is balance. Meth addiction, I think, is one symptom of that imbalance. I pray that we wake up to the dangerous imbalance in American life and take back our lives.
Janet Bullock is a resident of Nevada City.
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