Posts Tagged ‘ television effects on kids ’

Restaurants, Please Turn Off Your TVs. My Family Is Trying to Have a Meal Together!

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Last weekend my husband and I decided to treat our three kids to lunch at a favorite casual spot. We walked in to find a new addition to the décor: a flat-screen TV. We chose the only booth where our kids’ eyeballs wouldn’t be glued to it, which was the table directly beneath the TV. We’re early lunch eaters and we were the only ones there, so I asked our server (nicely) if he could turn down the sound. He did.

Still, I’m bummed. In a time when it’s challenging enough to get everyone in the family to look up from the screens on their devices and phones and share a meal together, and maybe even (whoa!) have a conversation, flat-screen TVs in restaurants have never felt less necessary—nor more ubiquitous. The list of our favorite eateries that now have one or several flat-screens is growing: our favorite pizza place; the tiny ice cream shop that doesn’t have room for a lone table, but does have a flat-screen above the counter; and even a rustic eatery on a lonely road near a peach farm in the middle of nowhere, where my kids were treated between bites of their turkey and apple sandwiches to a freeway police chase.

I know I’m not alone in my dismay that dining out is now served with a side of screen. “We were in some tiny pizza joint in Astoria, Queens, and there was a horror movie on TV,” says my Parents colleague Erika Janes, a mom of two young boys. ”My kids were mesmerized. I had to ask them to change it.”

We hear so much about how it’s important to pick and choose what young children watch, especially when you consider sobering statistics like this one: The typical American child will be exposed to 12,000 acts of violence on television a year.  So, I do my best to select movies and video games carefully. When I tune to our on-demand channel to find my preschooler a free kids’ show, I mute the sound and tell her to avert her eyes, since the movie promo that flashes on screen while I quickly click to the kidfare is typically a violence-fest of fiery crashes and shootings. But when we’re out and about and TVs are on at the doctor’s office, the dentist, the checkout line, and restaurants, I know I’m in a losing battle.

I recently brought my girls to lunch at our closest fast-food joint (yeah, we occasionally eat there! choosing my battles one at a time here). It had just been remodeled in snazzier fashion, and was quite the step up for us—lounge-style seating, even a faux-fireplace—but there was that new addition again: a flat-screen TV. I found one of very few tables without a view of it, but while taking my preschooler to the restroom, I passed a boy who looked about 6. His eyes were fixated on CNN on the screen, which was featuring a segment about ISIS, and the boy asked, “Daddy, who are those men with guns?” My heart sank as the father fumbled for an explanation, even as I wrestled with perspective: We’re much luckier, so much luckier, than the families we are seeing in the news on television.

People complain when they see parents of younger children in restaurants these days, their kids glued to games and animated shows on iPads and their parents’ phones. And theoretically, I agree—these glowing devices can be an intruder on others’ dining experience, and on what might be shared family time. But here’s another thing to think about in our TV-obsessed culture: If my choice is between Dora on an iPad in my child’s lap, and CNN airing a segment about the Taiwan plane crash on the restaurant wall, well: Which should a parent choose?

Maybe we’re just eating in the wrong places. I think of restaurant critic Adam Platt’s hilarious “Flat-Screen TV Axiom,” which states the following:

“The more flat-screen TVs that glow on a restaurant’s wall, the harder the food will suck.”

But Mr. Platt wrote that for New York magazine in 2008, before TVs were everywhere. And we do most of our dining out in suburban America, not hip New York City. Flat-screen TV’s, once mostly a staple of sports bars, now seem to be symbolic with a place having gone more upscale, strangely enough. Flat-screens have become part of the remodeling blueprint for chain restaurants looking to polish their image, along with glossy hardwood floors and leather seating, and also hang in the chicest of cafes. And some restaurants are already experimenting with “smart tables,” spill-resistant touchscreen tabletops that you can swipe while you dine. When that happens at the restaurants near me, I give up.

Someone must be enjoying all this TV watching in restaurants, or we wouldn’t see them everywhere. Maybe my perspective has just been so skewed as a parent that I see the issue differently than if I were a single, childfree 20something popping into any of these places with some time to kill. Who’s to say I wouldn’t enjoy a comfy couch and a nice large TV?

Or, I’d like to think, I’d be talking to whichever friend I’d come along with. It’s the same thing I’m hoping for with my family: to share some conversation over a meal, without the distraction of a television. So, I’m favoring restaurants without flat-screens, though they’re getting fewer and further between.

How do you feel when you see flat-screens in restaurants? Have you ever asked the restaurant to turn a TV down, or off?

Gail O’Connor is a senior editor at Parents and a mother of three.

Manners & Responsibility: Eating Out with Kids at Restaurants
Manners & Responsibility: Eating Out with Kids at Restaurants
Manners & Responsibility: Eating Out with Kids at Restaurants

Photo of a TV screen in a restaurant via Shutterstock

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How TV is Messing With Your Tween

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Being a tween girl is hard. And according to a new study, the television shows tween girls and boys watch is making life just a little more difficult. The study published in the journal Sex Roles found that programs on common kid channels, such as Disney and Nickelodeon, frequently show girls (all of whom are good-looking) being concerned about their looks, working to look better, and receiving comments about their appearance from other characters . At the same time, boys in these shows had a larger variety of “looks” (some attractive and some not so attractive) and didn’t focus on their appearance.

If you think about your tween years, or your own tween child, you know that this is an awkward stage. Braces, glasses, growth spurts, and hand-me-downs plague a majority of middle schoolers and affect their self-esteem. When combined with the existing struggles of tweenhood, TV shows that tell girls to focus on their looks are bound to cause anxiety about every aspect of their appearance.

What worries me most about this study is that if girls are told to spend time thinking about what they look like, what are they not concentrating on. For example, if they spend their morning preoccupied about their outfit, are they missing out on time learning in class? Are they wasting time that could be used to daydream about their future career? And could low self-esteem keep them from speaking up in school or participating in sports?

Aside from turning off the television, there are things you can do to counteract the negative messages on their favorite channels:

-Set a good example by loving yourself.

-Encourage your  girls to participate in a variety of activities.

-Talk to her about all her positive qualities to increase her long-term confidence.

What do you do to promote a healthy self-esteem in your kids?

Back to School: Dealing With Meanness and Bullying
Back to School: Dealing With Meanness and Bullying
Back to School: Dealing With Meanness and Bullying

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