Our Little Children

Screen time is having a detrimental effect on kids

When I was a kid, coffee was served only to adults at our dinner table. Smoking was definitely a no-no, so we had to leave the dining room if a guest lit up a cigar. Even profanity was prohibited in our presence. The reason, of course, was that these would have had a detrimental effect on us kids.

Along came television in the 1950s, the golden era of films like Ben Hur and The Robe. I can still conjure up the image of beautiful Queen Elizabeth II seated at her coronation. Father Knows Best bolstered our Dad’s authority and obedience to parents.

But then commercialism did its best to addict the viewing masses to sexual innuendos, liquor, cigarettes, fake foods, and endless violence. Sex was only suggested in the 50s, but it’s now shown in gross climactic detail. Kids are fed a steady diet of this junk.

Society has fabricated its own demise by raising Millennials who can’t reason well, are disobedient, and are quick to wear the tattered fashions of the day. Perhaps it’s due to their using TVs and cell phones seven hours a day, at the hidden expense of a thinning cortex. Loving parents won’t let them do that. Like cigarette smoke, it’s bad for them and society.

A recent “60 Minutes” report details a large ongoing study, through the National Institutes of Health, of adolescent brain development. In part, scientists are trying to understand how huge amounts of screen time impact the physical structure of kids’ brains, as well as their emotional development and mental health. The $300 million study, performed at 21 sites across the country, will follow more than 11,000 kids for a decade.

Dr. Gaya Dowling of the National Institutes of Health gave “60 Minutes” a preview, from the first wave of data from brain scans of 4,500 participants. The MRIs found significant differences in the brains of some kids who use smartphones, tablets, and video games more than seven hours a day. Some nine and ten-year-olds’ brains show premature thinning of the cortex, which is “typically thought to be a maturational process.” Dowling says that other data reveal that kids who spend more than two hours a day on screens got lower scores on thinking and language tests.

Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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