Escapism is bad for kids mentally, emotionally, physically: Parents should remove electronics if they want to improve health, behavior, grades

Parents should be aware of another boogeyman in the closet. A team of researchers from the Iowa State University are concluding that placing a TV along with a gaming console in a child’s bedroom could result in developmental and social problems later on. The effect is not a correlation but a relationship; meaning that while playing video games does not directly lead to a problematic child, the likelihood of sociopathy are increased. The trigger, it would seem, is location. More so than any other area of the home, the bedroom can provide a haven for children to engage in more violent, less educational video games.

As explained by lead author and professor of psychology Douglas Gentile on Science Daily: “Putting a TV in the bedroom gives children 24-hour access and privatizes it in a sense, so as a parent you monitor less and control their use of it less.”

It is a classic case of ripples in the water. Gentile argues that when children are given free reign to computer or video games, they spend less time reading, socializing, or playing outside. Using data from his other studies, Gentile says that the number of hours children spend in front of a screen has significantly increased in only a few short years. He insists that children in our country spend nearly 60 hours a week in front of a computer. To put that into perspective, an average white-collar worker is only required to spend 40 hours a week doing his or her job.

Other studies paint a far bleaker picture. National research concludes that more than 40 percent of our children (ages four to six) have a TV in their bedroom. Children above the age of six typically have a video game console with their television set.

While there are no studies available that show the type of video games being played by children in their bedrooms as compared to in any other space in their home, Gentile says that it is likely that these games are not entirely appropriate. He claims that digital media use has molded children to believe that their “life” is the one being portrayed in their device rather than what is actually happening. Today’s children, he says, are more concerned about responding to text messages at night or social media alerts than listening to their parents or doing their homework.

Gentile pleads for parents to take his findings with grim-faced practicality. Children may fight to keep their “privacy” in having their own TV in their bedroom, but the effects of having one are only harmful. Bedrooms should be bedrooms: Areas that kids use to sleep and relax.

“It’s a lot easier for parents to never allow a TV in the bedroom than it is to take it out,” Gentile concludes. “It’s a question every parent must face, but there is a simple two-letter answer. That two-letter answer is tough, but it is worth it.”

Limit video game use in any case

Video games have the mental nutritional profile of a Twinkie. These games are exciting, visually-appealing, and most importantly, addicting. Children raised with video games often have anti-social characteristics and can engage in escapist tendencies. There is also the sense of detached self-importance. Players — especially those in role-playing games — are the heroes or heroines of the story; the shining knight that saves the world through relentlessly butchering, robbing, and manipulating less-important characters in this made-up world (the jargon, parents should know, is NPC: non-player character). Children learn at an early age that they are the core on which the universe revolves and that they are not responsible for their actions. (Related: Violent Video Games and Certain Internet Use Cause Aggression and Other Negative Outcomes.)

Mental health professionals recommend limiting video game use to only one hour a day, particularly for younger children. Parents should also take the pains to encourage their children to play with other kids their age, or participate in other helpful activities such as reading.

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