Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Rules at Our House

According to the final draft report prepared yesterday by a section council of the National Education Council, adopting "Rules at Our House" is being encouraged as a part of "The Way to Educate Regarding Cultural Refinement in the New Generation." Wondering what this meant, I read the article in the Sankei Shimbun. It seems that this means we should "limit the time spent (at home) playing video games and watching TV." "Does that mean, then, that a lot of families nowadays allow children to play video games and watch TV as much as they want?" I was shocked and disappointed. Do parents now do so little that someone in the government has to say something to the effect of "Don't let your children do everything they please"? I'm very much aware that our house isn't "the average", but I thought there were a lot of other families who were equally as strict when it comes to bringing up their children. But, it may well be that ours is an "endangered species."

I've always known that neuroscience tells us that watching too much TV is bad for a growing child. Even if that wasn't the case, I think that most TV programs these days are vulgar and senseless, so we've always tried to strictly supervise the amount of time and the content of the programs our children watched. Even then, there weren't too many programs we felt were worth watching, so we would buy some videos we thought would be good and showed them to our children again and again. We also set the time frame for watching--Until such-and-such a time at night. Video games, too, were limited to "this many hours on weekdays and this many on weekends and holidays." My wife, also (although perhaps not as strict as I) was supportive of my policy, so I don't think she ever used the TV as a "babysitter." Our disappointed children would say, "We have little in common to talk about with our friends." But, I was indifferent.

Lyricist and author, Yu Aku, fills his book, The Third Family Member -- TV, This Troublesome Member within the Family, with some outstanding observations about the negative aspects of TV. Just a few examples, "TV is an invention by, and, at the same time, a disciple of the devil. It invades families, and, at a distance of only 2 meters, continues to hypnotize everyone", "Unbelievable laws such as, 'One mistake can cost you your life, but, if you continue this for three days, you may become quite popular' can be made through TV", "Certain types of anti-social campaigns can, at times, be carried out with the idea that, if they exist in society, it's okay to do. After it has become a crime, it still gives people a certain comfort since other people are doing it", "The fact that 'people would rather believe in 'the 1% of corruption rather than the 99% virtue', is what TV takes advantage of", "The horrifying sense that, in baseball, being hit by the ball is funny. There's something that has numbed one to the fact that being hit by the ball could be fatal."

Those are the warnings regarding the "content" of TV programs, but, some people are of the opinion that watching TV itself is dangerous. The brains of small children develop in a number of stages. During this time, there is a period when large quantities of "excess" brain cells die off. It's like woodcarving--you get a large piece of wood and whittle way the unneeded excess. The second developmental stage for the brain is at 7-8 years of age, after which time, a large quanity of brain cells die. One of the important functions of the brain is to automatically change the word into mental images. The best way to nurture this ability is to read on your own or to have someone read to you. By doing this, children come to understand the feelings of others and develop the ability to empathize with others. However, with the advent of TV, parents have stopped reading to their children. Since both the sound and image appear simultaneously on TV, there's no need to create the image in the brain through the sounds. So, children "brought up" with TV, lack imagination and lack the ability to understand the feeling of others--That's the theory.

Kindergarten and elementary school-age children can't be expected to understand this. So, it's up to the stubborn dad to declare bluntly that "It's a rule in our house that we don't watch TV very much." Sometimes being resented comes with fatherhood, but, on the other hand, I also made reading to our children a fatherly duty.

- MT

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