For many kids, the bedroom is not only an arcade, but also a war zone and peep show. According to Steyer, each year the average American kid is exposed to more than 14, references to sex or episodes of sexual intercourse on TV alone. And media then become the de facto parent, with no such concern for revelation in measured steps, Steyer asserts.
For 50 years, Stanford researchers have pioneered measuring the effects of media and debating how to improve content. From the beginning, many of them, like the late communication professor Wilbur Schramm, focused on the compelling allure of television. In the s, Schramm studied remote Canadian towns during a period when television was introduced. In the early s, psychology professor Albert Bandura designed one of the most famous social science experiments ever done.
Other studies have demonstrated that a violence-heavy media diet desensitizes children toward violence in general and also leads them to view the world as scarier and more dangerous than it really is. Certainly, there is more to content than sex and violence. Big Bird and the Sesame Street gang have sent innumerable youngsters off to school better prepared to count and read.
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Generations of kids once trooped off to the local library and thumbed through National Geographic to write a report. Now, students pop a CD into the computer or go online and summon far richer material in seconds. Even that infernal Barney tape played for the umpteenth time on the drive to preschool imparts powerful messages about diversity, kindness and the importance of wearing a seatbelt.
And so the industry cries censorship when its content is attacked, often pointing a finger at indifferent parents or lax gun laws if a media-saturated kid goes bad. Then, too, some parents frankly prefer to have the kids home watching virtual villains than roaming a neighborhood where real ones lurk. Stanford researchers remain engaged in the ongoing debate.
Here are four voices from the front lines.
Communication professor Donald Roberts's office walls are lined with some pretty juvenile-looking artwork. Roberts began his career studying violence and television, but in the s, he also turned to music lyrics, then a largely neglected area. Today, however, Roberts finds it unrealistic to focus on any one medium. The computer and Internet have changed things again. Despite all the inappropriate sexual messages in mainstream media, Roberts notes that medical and sexual advice columns in teen magazines and on websites aimed at kids are providing accurate, even lifesaving, data on subject matter rife with embarrassment and misinformation.
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He also believes media have contributed greatly to making kids more tolerant. Roberts is currently studying the ethnicity of musical artists with Top 40 hits throughout the decades. The percentage of white singers has declined steadily since the s, remaining under 50 percent since What most worries Roberts, however, is the number of kids who have virtually unlimited access to media any hour of the day or night and are often absorbing it alone.
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A Kaiser Family Foundation study he collaborated on found that fully two-thirds of American children over age 8 have televisions in their own rooms—as do 32 percent of those 2 to 7, and 26 percent of those 2 to 4 see sidebar. Studies show that when kids view programs with their parents or in a group, they are less likely to be frightened by violent or scary material.
Those jokes are designed to keep parents around. Most media researchers focus on content and how it is perceived. Initially, he looked at media as a way to influence kids to eat and live more healthfully. Then, he found some weak correlations between obesity and television watching patterns. So he designed an experiment for third- and fourth-grade students from San Jose, Calif.
The other half—the control group—received no special information or training. The presentation did not focus on specific programs, but on the amount of time spent in front of the TV. The kids and their families kept diaries. But the bigger news to Robinson was that over the seven months, the kids in the experimental group on average gained almost 2 fewer pounds and 1 less inch in their waistlines than did those in the control group.
He also found a decline in aggression in the experimental group, even though no effort was made to influence the kinds of programs watched. A final encouraging finding came from some parents who reported that their kids pestered them less to buy toys advertised on television.
Robinson admits these results raise new questions, including the precise explanation for the weight loss.
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Activities that replaced TV viewing—playing games, reading a book, resting, talking to family members—might burn more calories or be less likely to involve snacking on a bowl of chips or a handful of cookies. Seeing less food advertising and consumption on TV could reduce the urge to eat high-fat goodies. Still, Robinson feels vindicated in taking a new approach. Today, he was shuttling his three young kids around, in between running his media company, promoting his book and organizing a new nonprofit advocacy group.
Over the past eight years, Steyer has also been a lecturer in the School of Education and, last year, at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. The peripatetic Steyer, in other words, is no stranger to the stresses and demands on working parents. He well knows the temptation to park the kids in front of the television or computer screen and grab some time to read or work or think or just relax. I know that may seem tough, but it is true.
Personally, I love the pieces from my family, they carry stories which fill in the blanks or give me a greater appreciate for how they worked hard to make or purchase these things. I wonder how much Allen key furniture will be passed down from generation to generation.
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We live in a time of fast fashion from clothes to furniture, all coming with a carbon footprint. I do understand from back breaking experience that dragging big heavy solid timber furniture up and down stairwells, then squeezing it through doorways is not fun! Allen key furniture is convenient, light and easy to move, yet what happens when it collapses, falls apart, where is the substance to repair, so you go and buy more, adding to that vicious clutter cycle. Minimalism is perfect for some people and very much on trend. Less stuff equals more time to do the things you love, not tied down to stuff, I totally get that.
To me Minimalism is being comfortable with your own style, and when things need to go they are disposed of in a responsible manner. Having recently been called in to consult a large declutter project that had stalled due to the family being overwhelming by the amount of STUFF. I was soon to discover the family went for the common path of decluttering, that is throwing everything out they did not deem relevant.