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August 04, 2004



stick to your guns. I wasn't emphatic enough with my kids about food when they were Zoe's age, and they all went through junk-food-only stages.

I am also with the "no tv, no video, none" school before 24 months (which is quite difficult if you have more than one kid). Baby Einstein is an invention of the devil.

Timothy Burke

God, that was a shitty little column. Besides the fact that it's actively untrue at some points, deceptively glossing the truth at others, it was just fucking mindless. There are chatroom bots that could write a better column on TV's hideous dangers to the nation's youth than that.

It's fascinating, you know. The proclaimed sociological and psychological effects on kids and thence from them to the adults they become that the anti-TV crowd have flogged since the 1950s are predictive hypotheses. And as predictions, they essentially are 100% the suck, with the possible exception of rising obesity rates ascribed to junk food ads, and even in that case, there's a very complex lag effect that would need explaining, not to mention some other competing hypotheses that are equally workable. If there's such a correlation between watching violent TV and committing violence, where's the out-of-control plague of violent crime that should be rising up and up and up in lockstep with what the anti-TV crusaders regard as the relentless rise of violence on TV? If there's such a correlation between cognitive problems and TV watching, where's the sociological effect of that?

Among the many little dishonesties that this jeremiad dispenses in its relentless proclaimation of its scientific validity is the total glossing of the effect sizes shown in the various studies that get cited. In many cases, they barely limp over the threshold of statistical significance, and they're swamped in significance by innumerable other effects.

As for things advertised on TV, one of the ways kids get savvy about advertising is by getting what they wish for. I learned a lot about truth-in-advertising by ordering Sea Monkeys and a "remote-controlled ghost" from the comic book ads (the ghost turned out to be a kite with a ghost picture on it). Not that you should plop your kid down in a room full of Twinkies and let them gorge until they get dysentary, but Emma's already found out that she doesn't actually like Captain Crunch by getting to try some. There's also the "forbidden fruit" effect, which I think is equally powerful--the more you make a big show out of saying a kid can't have something or something's bad, the more interesting it gets. I'm already regretting having made jokes about how Ronald McDonald's is Sauron's right-hand man, because that made him and his food seem *much* more interesting to my wee one.

Jeremy Osner

I notice that Sylvia (4 y.o.) differentiates between shows and commercials in that she seems much more engrossed by the latter. She likes her shows, especially Clifford, but can get easily distracted from them playing with toys or narrating stuff or playing her solitaire version of "Twister"; but when a commercial is on she is rapt.


Will Baude is absolutely right when he says, "Parental censorship is no substitute for a moral compass."

It's *relatively* easy to avoid such things as TV, the sugary cereal aisle, stores that sell toy guns, and other dispensers of childhood evils--when your child is still a toddler. It becomes increasingly difficult, however, to control your child's world in this way as your child grows up. Unless you home school your child and severely restrict her social life, your child will be spending much of her time away from you--at school, birthday parties, sleepovers, eventually college--and will be exposed to the very things you have worked so hard to avoid.

There will always be adults who don't share your value system, and won't have a problem filling your five year old full of Koko Krunch, showing your ten year old a rated R movie, or handing your sixteen year old a beer at a party. What then? If their moral reasoning is solely based on punishment avoidance, and you'll never know about it, I would bet that even the most obedient kid would have trouble saying no.

I think the best thing we can do for our kids is not to shelter them from the world, but to expose them to it (carefully, of course), and then teach them how to deconstruct it.

Let them watch TV ads, but talk to them about persuasive marketing techniques. Let them have a bowl of sugary cereal once in awhile, but talk to them about the importance of nutrition. Let them play video games, but talk to them about appropriate ways to solve problems in real life. Let them have a sip of wine at dinner, but talk to them about moderation, about the consequences of drunk driving, about how to say no at a party, about the importance of calling you to come get them if they ever give in to peer pressure.

And let them read articles by Jane Brody, but talk to them about illogical causations, undefined abstractions, and the importance of being a likable narrator.


Made of sugar instead of wheat?

And here I thought it was sweetened grains!

I'd expect a pure-sugar cereal to dissolve instantly... and of course it wouldn't really be "cereal".

ben wolfson

It wouldn't dissolve instantly if the crystals were of reasonable size, or if you used alcohol instead of milk.


actually, sigvald, some of those cereals are as much as 45% sugar by weight. They don't eaxtly stay crisp in milk, you'll notice.


"or if you used alcohol instead of milk"
Now there's an idea. Out with vodka pops, in with Vodka Krispies (TM).

Jeremy Osner

Gives a potential new meaning to "sugar wouldn't melt in her mouth".


For Pete's sake, buy the poor kid some koko puffs.


It's always struck me that if I were to go round to a friend's house and tell their children that eating crappy cereal was the best thing in the world, it was big and clever to punch people and that they really needed the latest and most expensive toy, I could probably expect a punch in the gob. But if I were to go round to the house of the media buyer for Ogilvy & Mather or some such and punch him for doing the same thing to me, I would be the criminal.

ben wolfson

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the commons from the goose


Sorry, Timothy Burke: There is a scientifically proven connection between pre-2-year-old TV viewing and AD/HD and ADD. There is also a scientifically proven connection between fighting in elementary school and playing violent video games. Why the polemic against these findings? Are *you* playing too many video games?

Stay in the fight, sister. I, too, have no TV in my house, and my kid eats nothing that doesn't grow right smack up from the ground (he'll be two in Sept). And you know what? He'll eat tons of junk food in his life - but you set what someone's "idea" of food is in the first two years. He'll also see TV - but why the rush? He'll have *plenty* of time to discover that nonsense, and before he does, he'll have programmed his neurons correctly (have you read *any* research on the connection between how your brain wires itself the first two years and how TV *prevents* your brain from doing that very thing, Timothy? Honestly. Please be informed before condemning the innocent to lives of TV hell.)

Will everyone *please* read "The Continuum Concept"???


Oops - sorry, Timothy. Just got that you were talking about the NYT article. That's what happens when I get hit in the parental groin - lots of vituperation, takes a moment for rational reflection.

But the link between playground violence and violent video games, etc., is real.


Theresa, I am rolling on the floor laughing at your "scientifically proven" theories about pre-two year olds.

My kid never watched any tv or videos until 2-1/2 when i introduced videos. somewhere around six, she discovered tv but was laargely indifferent and then at eight she fell in love with it, stumbling out of bed at the crack of dawn and turning on the TV like an addict.

The biggest health food freak I know, who has prepared her kids Moosewood meals all their lives, has watched them feast on burgers every chance they got for years.

Keep your fingers crossed and maybe your kid will not like junk food or maybe he will, ditto TV.

All this pre-24 months stuff is sheer fantasy.


While I agree that even kids who are raised with healthy food will want junk food just as much as the rest of us (I myself remember sneaking off to Wendy's for a burger and a frosty), that does not take away from the importance early imprinting has on children.

In fact, the first two years are the most important years of your child's life in terms of this imprinting. Please, please read The Continuum Concept (Jean Leidhoff), Magical Child (Joseph Chilton Pierce) and any book by Dr. Sears.

The first two years set the tone for the rest of that human's life with respect to questions such as "Am I safe?" "Is the world a safe place?" "Am I loved?" "Will I get what I need to survive?" and many, many other important, world-shaping impressions. It is a fact that such experiences affect the person for the rest of his/her life.

It is a common belief (only in the West!!) that the first two years are "throw away" years - but, in fact, they are the exact opposite. We have just lost touch with the instinctually best way to parent in the maze of technology and "progress."

Please, please read these books - we are all doing terrible damage to our children without even knowing it through an appalling lack of education.

If you are like me, and hate the way we as a country act in the world, look first to how we are told to raise our children (separate room from birth, feeding schedule, allowing them to cry without comforting them, etc - barbaric) and move to make a difference at this most fundimental level.

And yes, as your children grow, they will want many things that you have the power to make boundaries around. But when they are adults, making decisions about what to eat and how to live, they will inevitably fall back on what they learned from *you*.

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