Sleeping on Sandwiches - Day 20
The Posture Police Blotter was on hiatus for awhile and I've revived it with a daily blog that is running from June 20 through September 22. This daily edition has a different focus to it and the gem in all of this is that what I'm going to be writing and what I've written about posture and the Alexander Technique are all related. Follow along and learn how!
Kids, Screens, Posture, and Thinking
I mentioned a few posts back that I would be writing about "screen-time" in relation to my kids and here it is. No, they aren't child stars! What I'm referring to their time watching screens. I say "screens" instead of TV because we don't have TV. Actually that's not entirely true. We do have a small TV/VCR combo that I bought in 1998. It's not plugged in. I'm not even sure exactly where it is. In any case, I can proudly say that my kids don't watch TV. Not really though . . . there's a huge variety of programming that they pick and choose from online and watch streaming on Netflix, Hulu, and clips we find on YouTube. They become more and more proficient at using the computer every day and I think that they both know how to use my new Android smart phone about as well as I do. There's actually something very appealing to them about watching videos on that tiny screen.
In terms of the content what they watch, my partners and my criteria are not necessarily based on whether or not something was designed for kids. There are plenty of non-"kid" programs that interest them. Most recently, Start Trek: The Next Generation. Last year they got into Great Performances on PBS and were watching King Lear every day.
They've discovered some "kid" or "family" programs as well and our guage as parents as to whether or not we encourage limiting a particular type of program relates to how we feel when it's on and what the kids do, not just when it's on, but when it's turned off. Certain children's programming (like "Barney and Friends", for example) seems to have a sort of addictive quality and feels like being bombarded by noise and color. The kids beg to play another one and if it's turned off, the protesting screams are so loud that we wonder if the walls are going to come down. When these types of shows are on, it feels like the whole room is being consumed by them. After they've been playing for awhile, I tend to feel a bit sick to my stomach and certainly don't have an appetite to watch them with my kids for long. Stand up comedian Louis C.K. talked about kids watching TV in on of his routines and basically said that if when you turn it off, they freak out, maybe it's not such a healthy thing. That makes a lot of sense to me.
Other programs have more of a calm quality about them. They don't jump so much from one thing to another, are quieter, and tend to treat children as younger versions of adults, rather than some other species of animal. I am happy to view these types of shows with my kids and they have a less addictive quality. My children are more likely to take in an episode and then move on to another activity. Examples are Peanuts cartoons, Blues Clues, and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood.
Our older child has an interest in intentionally limiting her intake of "videos" (as we call them). The younger one exercises less self-control and is often criticized by her older sister who tells her that she's "addicted", to which she responds emphatically, "I am not addicted!" and then continues watching a video.
When "addictive" viewing is happening, it's like they are allowing themselves to be sucked into the screen, to live in the 2D world and forget their 3D selves. My three-year-old who typically sits bolt upright, slowly eases into a slump when she sits and watches videos. The common way that people misuse their bodies starting with pulling the head back with the neck (chin poking forward), which then results in slouching in the upper chest and shoulders, kicks in.
Television and videos can begin as a form of entertainment that children are drawn to, but it can become an escape and a way of coping with stress. Plopping down in front of a video is a way of relaxing. I don't thiking of it so much as relaxing, but rather escaping oneself and the environment and tuning out.
I admit that when I was a child, I watched a ton of television and my family didn't even have cable TV! It was a way of winding down after school and then I'd have a list of shows that I planned to watch most evenings. Incentive to finish my homework was often to finish in time for something that I wanted to see on TV and sometimes I'd do my homework while watching TV. Through part of Jr. High and most of High School, I wore a back brace, due to scoliosis in my lumbar spine. My doctor precscribed wearing it 18 hours per day. I chose the six off-hours to be during school. Coming home was associated with the discomfort of putting on the brace and I'd often deal with it by lying down and watching TV for several hours.
Once I began college, my relationship with television changed dramatically. I was busy adjusting to my new life away from home, my course work, making new friends, and living in New York City for the first time. Watching television moved from high to low priority on my list of things to do and has continued to take that low priority. Nonetheless, I am aware of how an abundance of television and films as a child shaped my thinking as an adult. I quickly got over the desire to want to tune out watching TV, but I realized how my repeated exposer to fantasy worlds offered me a warped view in regards to persuing goals. This is how I interpret it, at least. I've spoken about the concept of "end-gaining" in previous posts (including the last one) and how we often get ahead of ourselves. This concept applies both physically and mentally. And, as I've menteioned, physical and mental experiences can't truely be separated. My warped view of persuing goals went something like this . . . I'd think of something I'd like to accomplish and then this idealized montage of images would play in my head - just like the formulaic montage then tends to happen about half-way through a film. Film editing makes things look so grand and so easy. Even if a struggle is depicted, it's seemingly resolved so quickly. Real-time wasn't a part of my thinking. I couldn't conceptulized getting from point A to point B in actual, real steps. I would have this disembodied feeling and would visualize the thing happening as if it were edited. Through life experience and my study of the Alexander Technique, I've been able to change my perspective. I feel more grounded and like I can visualize real steps that I would take in real time in order to head in the direction of a goal. Just like the way in which people sit and stand, the strategies that people use to visualize and plan can be bound up in limited habits. Just like an exercersize at the gym may not be so beneficial if you are pressing down in yourself when doing it, visualizing in order to help reach a goal may or may not be effective if it is not grounded in an sense of real time.
Going back to the topic of my children, it's easy to let videos play to give me a break to get something else done and there are educational benefits to waching videos, especially when we talk about them as a family and watch them together. We don't have "TV", yet "screentime" has still become a significant feature of my childrens' lives (perhaps too significant) and my partner and are working to change that. There's so much 3D, unedited world to learn from!