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Kids and parents reconnect without the tube

Kai Fawcett and Sage Hagopian spend some quality time checking out their “possibility boxes” at the Bayview Cash Store. Each box is filled with creative ways for children to entertain themselves when the television is off. - Jeff VanDerford / The Record
Kai Fawcett and Sage Hagopian spend some quality time checking out their “possibility boxes” at the Bayview Cash Store. Each box is filled with creative ways for children to entertain themselves when the television is off.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford / The Record

BAYVIEW — It can’t be a surprise to anyone that kids are watching too much television.

But some folks from the Waldorf School say all that screen time — TV or videogames — is much worse for kids than some parents are willing to believe.

“A vast body of research has shown the negative effects of TV on children,” Adam Fawcett said. “It damages their creativity potential, lowers attention span, increases the chance for obesity and raises anxiety levels.”

“The thing is, a lot of parents are only vaguely aware of the research and that’s the reason for TV Turnoff Week,” he added. “There’s lots of data but no one is paying attention.”

National TV Turnoff Week is the first nationwide effort that targets television and asks people to reassess the role that TV plays in their daily lives. The Waldorf School in Clinton is spearheading the effort here on the South End.

“We want to encourage parents to get informed and examine their own media habits,” said Karen Benson, parent of a Waldorf student.

“And get them to spend quality time with their children,” Fawcett added.

The school is planning a series of events through April 26 to help parents deal with the withdrawal symptoms children may face when the TV set is unplugged.

One way is the use of “boxes of possibilities.”

While they were being interviewed for this story, their children, Kai and Sage, checked out three boxes containing, well, a bunch of stuff.

The boxes are considered jumping-off places for self-discovery. They contain anything a child might need to be creative — old coffee cans, pieces of pipe, balsa wood, a hole punch, duct tape, a bicycle chain, crayons, hats, tissue paper and anything else a kid might use to have fun.

While Kai tried to create imaginary holes in the floor with a toy drill, Sage used twist ties to make a — well, who knows, but whatever it was, she gave it a lot of thought.

She was thinking, which is what every parent hopes their child will do.

“One of our goals is to provide folks with easy access to information they can use to become more aware of the problem and how to find solutions,” Benson said.

They cited a Web site — www.mediafamily.org — that says kids spend more than four hours a day watching TV, and a total of more than six hours when video games are factored in.

“And we know that families spend just

38 minutes of meaningful conversation with their children each week. That’s right, each week,” Fawcett said. “There’s a new study showing a direct correlation between screen time and poor performance at school for fifth- to eighth-graders.”

Waldorf parents want to educate and inform the public, and encourage practices and policies that promote positive change in the production and use of mass media.

“If parents are only communicating with their kids 38 minutes a week, there is an obvious loss of human connectivity within the home,” Benson noted.

“It’s time to turn off the tube, shut down the computer and learn to be together again.”

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