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AD”HDTV”

With the alarming increase in children being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, we’re often left wondering if it’s being over-diagnosed, if children are given too much medicine, or if it’s simply that we have too little patience. However, research targeting the cause of the climb in ADHD has centered on the hub of many homes; the tube.

The television has been utilized to entertain, fight boredom, educate, and since its debut it has been used to babysit our children while we get chores done around the house. The guilt that may have come initially with plopping them in front of the boob tube with a sack of crackers has been offset by the companies that have capitalized on the learning potential tots have from exposure to their shows. Without minimum age recommendation, shows such as baby Einstein, Barney, and teletubbies all tout their effective delivering of fundamental learning through colors, shapes, words, and scenarios. It seems like it would almost be robbing your child were you not to run out and buy your one year old the latest baby genius box set.

The television is one of the few predominant features in childhood these days that was absent for the generation raising this rising number of confusing, scatterbrained, difficult, spastic children. Could it be the very thing contributing to this hard to endure condition? That is exactly what was concluded by recent research on ADHD; that box is bad news.

Not for all kids, but specifically, and ironically, the children aged 0-2 years of age to whom baby Einstein markets as their target group; appealing to parents’ pride in having junior get a jumpstart towards Stanford. The reason behind the age factor has to do with the stage of development the brain is in and how environmental stimulation affects the actively developing parts of the brain. As infants, our brain wires have not formed complete connections, and they don’t until around two years old, so any stimuli to which a child is exposed will alter the route those wires take. It is important to keep kids under two away from television is because of the bright and abrupt change of colors, scenes, characters, and voices. If you pay attention to your stock cartoon, they don’t leave much time between transitions for it to be absorbed before it is off again onto another subject, or character, or sound. It is too much, too fast, for a little developing brain to process, and so the brain bases growth on that speed. It will form short signals and short pathways that are unable to take on a lot of information. Fast to change, fast to lose track, impossible to focus, and unable to grasp a concept before it bounces off another wall in another direction. You can almost see in an ADHD child those very incomplete interactions taking place, much like a cartoon.

I know it’s tough for those parents that bank on barney keeping their infant occupied so they can squeeze in a few loads of laundry, or slip in a shower, but the records show that you do both of yourselves a disservice by doing so before the age of two—it might mean a lifetime of medication for junior, a lifetime of struggling with learning, and a lifetime of being sent home for bad behavior. So disconnect the dumb box, and get out the wood blocks, your child and their future teachers will thank you.

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