I thought I was fully aware of the dangers of casually plopping my young son in front of the TV for hours to occupy his time. I never imagined this lackadaisical approach to child-rearing could open up a kiddo to bullying in his middle-school years.
A new University of Montreal study has found that two-year-olds who spend inordinate amounts of time in front of the tube are, by sixth grade, more susceptible to having belongings taken from them and are more likely to be physically or verbally abused by their peers. Allowing Spongebob to raise your kids strips them of crucial family and social interaction wherein they develop communication and problem-solving skills. Not only are these kids becoming sedentary lumps, they are becoming psychologically lazy, and it has repercussions later on.
Most of this feels rudimentary: Social outcasts, bred from a childhood of never building social skills, are always the target of bullies. At the same time, I understand the desire for parents to let the TV take control sometimes. When my toddler is making a meal out of a clean house and something grabs his attention on TV, it’s easy to slowly back away into the other room.
In practical terms, a compromise is in order. If my son is locked into a certain show or, at this age, commercial, why not discuss what is happening? He’s being quiet and calm — the perfect chance to drop some wisdom on him. Go over the conflict on the show, break down the resolution, make him work through some problems. Be social together.
Then, turn the TV off and go outside.