On Mother’s Day, consider the gift of sharing time

 

This week, Americans are seeing hundreds of ads claiming to know what mom really wants for Mother’s Day and inducing you to buy it for her.

But if you ask most mothers for their wish list, they won’t tell you they want candy, flowers or jewelry. They’re likely to say the best gift would be uninterrupted time with their children, and the assurance that their children are healthy.

Mothers want to share time that is not diluted by TV, texting or video games.

This may seem like a simple order to fill, but according to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average young American spends practically every waking minute that he or she is not in school plugged in to an electronic device.

Children 8 years of age and older spend an average of six hours a day on electronic media. Kids 6 years and younger spend an average of two hours a day watching TV.

So it is appropriate that this year’s Screen-Free Week — formerly known as TV Turnoff Week — overlaps with Mother’s Day.

Families that unplug for one week will be spared from seeing more than 200 acts of violence, and children will be shielded from nearly 800 commercials.

One of the reasons Screen-Free Week is endorsed by 65 national organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Education Association, is that television is bad for the physical and emotional health of children.

Screen time is an identified factor in childhood obesity. Today, 20 percent of American children are overweight, and half of those are severely overweight. Compare this to 1965, when 5 percent of children were overweight. Other factors contribute to this, but the prevalence of ads for junk food and candy aimed at kids surely doesn’t help.

Kids who watch TV on a daily basis show significant decreases in reading levels, problem-solving skills and creative expression. By contrast, children whose screen time is limited do better in school and read more than their peers who consume high levels of electronic media.

Excessive screen time is linked to increased psychological difficulties, such as hyperactivity and aggression in adolescents. A connection has also been made between screen time and risky behavior like drinking, smoking and drug use.

This year, when you see ads for a terrific Mother’s Day gift, remember you’ve already got the perfect one: your time and attention. But in order to give it, we need to unplug the TV and plug into real life.

Jennifer Coburn is the author of “We’ll Always Have Paris: A Mother-Daughter Travel Memoir.” She wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine.

© 2014, Jennifer Coburn

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Read more From Our Inbox stories from the Miami Herald

  • We stand with the kidnapped girls of Nigeria

    As president and founder of the South Florida Girl Up, a club of teenage activists in Florida for the Girl Up Campaign of the United Nations Foundation, I want to add my voice to that of other activists with whom I’ve collaborated to create and support the first clubs in Mexico, Ecuador, and Colombia.

  • Preventing a massacre in N. Korea’s gulags

    Since the U.N. Commission of Inquiry issued its report on North Korea in February, U.N. bodies, human-rights organizations, governments and think tanks have been working to respond to the crimes against humanity it documented, including the systematic abuse of prisoners and food policies that lead to starvation. But the report’s most chilling section rarely gets discussed: standing orders at North Korea’s political prison camps (the kwanliso) to kill all prisoners in the event of armed conflict or revolution.

  • Why the House should sue Obama

    The Constitution states that it’s Congress’ job to make the laws and the president’s to faithfully execute them. It does not permit a president to suspend a law or grant special dispensations from its requirements. But President Obama has done just these things on numerous occasions, and only the federal courts can preserve the constitutionally mandated separation of powers by definitively rebuffing his illegal actions.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category