Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Roald Dahl was Right

"First I walk, then I run and I fly" was our four-year-old son's statement when his teacher asked about his future plans. He was in the 3-4 age group (kindergarten) during his stay in Australia last year. His teachers were thrilled and excited to hear this statement and were anxious to report this to us. When we were in his school to pick him up in the evening, the kindergarten teachers, Kim and Malanka, told us about the quote while briefing  about his daily progress. Although we did not take it seriously, his coordinator, Helen, also praised his power of creating stories.

Until a few months ago, our son still had that quality. But the problem appeared about a month ago, when we connected cable TV thinking that it may help him to learn something. But the result was negative. It is not that he had not watched television before; but he had to spend most of his time in childcare. He would be playing with friends and engaging in creative activities. But here, he had enough time to trouble us. After the cable line was connected, he began to spend most of his spare time in front of the television.

 The worst days were the frequent strikes. He lost his appetite and creativity, and forgot to engage in different and interesting games that he used to enjoy before. He forgot to ask us to read storybooks for him. He lost his interest in music too, which was strange as he used to love it. All he wanted was to stick around the TV and stare at it without blinking.

It was a matter of anxiety for us, so my husband and I discussed the matter with close relatives and friends. Obviously, there were different views from different heads. Our family guardian suggested disconnecting the cable line at once. A few close family friends suggested selecting programs for kids. Some of our other relatives tried to promote a child's right to watch whatever programs they want. We, as parents, were extremely worried and finally decided to disconnect the line for our child's sake.

That was not an easy solution. He reacted against it violently. But things returned to normal after we struck a deal. We would reconnect the cable if he agreed to watch only a few selected programs.

In fact, this is not a problem of a single family. The grown ups think that children can select good programs for themselves but in reality, they cannot. The young ones do not have an understanding regarding the negative impacts of TV. So, they insist on watching each and every program. As long as the TV is there, you cannot stop them from watching it.

From one point of view, it is okay. If you turn the TV on, your children will not trouble you. They just sit in a corner and enjoy watching the endless stream of programs. You can use that time doing anything you like, you are free. But, on the other hand, it may be a blunder. If your children become TV addicts, then they will lose their creativity and their imagination. They remember only what they see on TV. But it is not their fault. You are entirely responsible for spoiling their fragile mind. A research shows that children spend 30 per cent of their waking hours in front of  a TV set and are exposed to 13,000 killings and 100,000 violent episodes during their childhood. From this we can easily realize how we are harming our little ones.

A question that may arise in your mind is: "How will children pass their spare time if we do not allow them to watch TV?" Roald Dahl, a famous children's literature writer, has a very impressive answer for you. He was always against watching TV. He invented a little rhyme of his own to urge others to move away from the TV:

It rots the senses in the head!
It kills imagination dead!
It clogs and clutters up the mind!
It makes a child so dull and blind!

He further says "...So go throw your TV set away. And in its place you can stall a lovely bookshelf on the wall." Really, reading is the key to opening the door to knowledge. Our children must have this key from the very beginning.

(Published in an English Daily The Kathmandu Post on Sunday, February 29, 2004)

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I would appreciate any and all suggestions on making improvements (as long as they are viable).