Saturday, May 27, 2006

What Did We Ever Do Before...

I'm becoming less and less interested in sitting at my computer, and more and more interested in playing music. This is being helped along some by technology. This morning, when I awoke and decided it probably was time to check my email, the static on my first floor line was so formidable as to render the line useless, and eventually, it went completely dead.

It took me half the day to realize I had another line in my bedroom upstairs, which was in fact completely fine, and so I hooked up for a bit to find a good tilapia recipe and check my mail.

Now, at 11 p.m., I'm sitting on my floor, listening to the boys from next door skateboard in the warm summer night. My kids are probably sound asleep after a long full day which we capped by watching Narnia. It was pretty much the only TV they had except for a bit while I got my shower.

This week yet another report was released about the effects of TV and other electronic entertainments on developing brains. The story is always the same; despite the mounting evidence that prolonged exposure to TV and other distractions changes the way young brains work, more and more Americans delegate hours that could be spent engaging their children to the Video Sitter. We ourselves spend hours in front of the computer, working, shopping, gaming, cherry picking our future mates out of an online scrapbook, looking up recipes for tilapia. We are a nation that has forgotten how to be with our kids, to be still, to be with ourselves, to be with each other, to be alone and think quietly, to be alone and make noise with an instrument, to unplug. We are allowing ourselves to be reprogrammed.

I didn't have access to my computer for a long while today because I believed I didn't have it. And of course I didn't need it. I haven't missed anything, really. My friends still called me, I planned a get together, the kids and I went to the park, I took them with me to a party at which we all had a blast, we came home and played outside more, then enjoyed the movie. The day was a whirlwind without TV, without video games, without much time spent in front of this screen.

At the same time I appreciate having this medium to share information, feelings, and observations about music. I wish I could invite more of you out there to comment. Nonetheless, it has a small way of helping me feel heard, not necessarily to be believed, but simply that the stuff I write about gets a wayward glance now and then.

In the old days, people played the music. People still do, like my friend Ed who graciously plays through tunes with me, which must be painful for someone who has been fiddling since he was 10. When we add a medium, like a Web site or a Podcast, we are not, and cannot, take another medium away, like listening to a field recording or learning a tune together. We have to play the music, talk about it, stream it, write about it, teach it one on one, extend ourselves beyond the electronic and yet use it to our every advantage.

The Digital Library of Appalachia is an example of this vision at its best. Media can preserve what we hold dear and therefore make it possible for us to share it with others, and with some of those others, the desire to know and hear and do more might catch on and a new practitioner is born.

It's a paradox for me. With fluffy pillow so closeby, maybe I'll just sleep on it. But I don't think things will change much. I'm a girl whose heart and ears are in the past but who lives now and for the future. It's got to all work together, or none of it will.


At May 28, 2006 2:27 PM, Blogger Shannon said...

I agree totally about playing music, but remember both Lynne and I grew up with that boob tube as our sitter and I think we are both fine.... perhaps even better than fine in some ways....

so don't knock my TV and beleive me I don't think you have any worries about your children's brains rotting out (even with video games and TV) because I fear they are already smarter than I in a multitude of ways!

At May 28, 2006 3:46 PM, Anonymous Old Jaw Bone said...

EXCELLENT TOPIC!!! I'd say it may the best one I've read thus far.If people would read this, take it seriously, and think about it in a truly intelligent fashion we may raise the level of conscious in this world a step or two. Reminds me of a song by John Prine in which one of the lyrics are "blow up your T.V., eat a lot of peaches,..." Don't remember the name of the song but it is on his first album.I completely agree that less t.v. is better, in fact no t.v. is best in my opinion. I blew up mine years ago!T.V. being for the most part like crack cocaine, it numbs the brain, and is very much like an addiction, especially for children. Reading, drawing,talking to one another,playing,working, playing music, or most anything else are much better choices, particularly for children, adults as well. I wonder just what did those poor souls do up until the 1950's-1960's to entertain themselves????? They surely must have been deprived!!!!
Please give a link to or info about what study you have obtained this latest information from.
I bet your friend enjoys playing music at any level and finds much enjoyment out of helping people that are truly interested in learning about one of the old ways of entertaining oneself and others. No television needed here!!!!!!!!! Enjoy life with less!!!

At May 29, 2006 8:54 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Thanks for the comments, guys.

Shan, I watched a fair bit of TV myself, but with my sister to play with and 20 acres to roam, it just didn't occur to us to watch it as much. Now, once dad died and we were on our own with Mom working, that changed, and I'd say we watched a fair amount. I can remember feeling a change in myself then, and once I got out more and got involved with other things, I was a much happier kid. Then again, I think I am on the social side of the spectrum and would rather be engaged in conversation than a passive activity. The one exception is live theatre or a movie.

Jawbone, I agree, there are so many better choices. At the same time I think a little tv is ok as long as parents manage it for kids who can't or don't make better choices. I try to give my kids a little freedom within reason, but overall I just find TV an unnecessary activity. We do enjoy sitting down to watch a movie together, and occasionally my son and I will watch some kind of program that doesn't interest my daughter, but even then we end up talking about the subject. And when we are engaged in another activity, the TV is off, unlike a lot of households I've been in. What is the benefit of the background noise? Why not put in music?

There is no substitute for social interaction when it comes to developing our human skills of diplomacy, tact, negotiation, compromise, cooperation. I guess a lot of parents would say that's why they send their kids to do sports or scouts or other activities. To a point, fine, but that won't replace the critical developing relationship with the child.

I guess my post was really just a ramble about so many kinds of disappointing choices people make, and why it's so HARD to force ourselves into a thinking activity with our children when our attention is focused entirely on them. I guess I kind of blame the excess media for driving a wedge there. Children need to learn that healthy attachment is ok, and in fact critical. That's just not a message you'll ever see in our "get them out and on their own by age 3" media mentality.

The report I saw was on MSNBC last week, online, although I can't remember if the article was in Newsweek or MSNBC. In the same edition, I also saw that Dr. "Let them cry it out Ferber" RETRACTED HIS YEARS OLD POSITION by allowing that co-sleeping is more than a little beneficial for children. I guess if you wait long enough the herd will follow The Big Name that finally admits that what I and a few others have been saying all along has been true.

That said, Shannon, you may have watched a lot of TV but I also know you were a co sleeper, so everything works out! :-)

At May 29, 2006 7:41 PM, Blogger kcterrilynn said...

Love this topic... I admit, I watch an absurd amount of TV (and I don't even have cable!). But I'm an adult and that's a choice I've made. As a kid, my TV exposure was limited and more often than not, I would chose to read a book anyway. (Except for Tuesday night which had the 'Happy Days', 'Laverne & Shirley', and 'Three's Company' fave.)

I will preface my opinion on the problems with today's kids by admitting I have no children, so keep in mind, I'm really just talking out of my butt. Anyway, I do think that parents rely on TV/videos/video games to entertain kids today. I am amazed at the number of minivans/SUV parents I see playing videos to occupy their kids in everyday traffic. Long roadtrips I understand, but for a 10 minute drive to the grocery store? Not so much.

I've noticed that my nieces and nephews (ages 12 to 9) have incredibly short attention spans and rather than use their imaginations while playing, they expect the toys to fill the void. It's really quite sad.

Anyway, with all that said, don't even try to get me to give up my computer and internet...dude, them's fightin' words!! :)

At May 29, 2006 9:23 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Oh KC! I loved those Tuesdays, too. I had a thing for Potsy. I am the ONLY person I know who had a thing for Potsy.

The DVD players in minivans blows my mind. And I have indeed seen people use those on trips home from the grocery store. Not to get out of hand, but, HAS IT OCCURRED TO ANY OF YOU PARENTS THAT THE REASON YOUR KIDS CAN'T DO WITHOUT THAT CRAP IS BECAUSE YOU KEEP GIVING IT TO THEM???

I used to have a thing with watching The West Wing, a show I loved, and ER, a show I watched religiously because it gave me even more to worry about. When I moved out of my house, and no longer felt the need for TV to fill in where my partner should have been engaging me (I tried, believe me I tried, it was always hopeless), I totally fell out of the habit. I can't remember the last time I watched any show regularly. I was using TV to fill in the emotional and intellectual gaps where I was being ignored and my heart and soul were wasting away. I will never have a TV in my bedroom until I'm old enough to wear diapers again.


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