How to Liberate Children from the Screen and Avoid Health Hazards

Black Friday has gone by and cyber Monday came along with a flood of scary headlines:

“Report Ties Children’s Use of Media to Their Health”

“TV, Internet Causing Kids Harm: Report

“Too Much Games Harm Health Of Kids”

“The National Institutes of Health and a nonprofit advocacy group, Common Sense Media, have another reason for President-elect Barack Obama to keep urging parents to “turn off the TV.”


It took a “first report of its kind” – a review of 173 studies about the effects of media consumption on children – to undo tremendous efforts over the last few years to educate parents and policy makers about the benefits of video games (and internet and modern TV).

Books such as “Everything bad is good for you” and “What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy” have argued successfully that these pop culture phenomena may prepare kids for the 21 first century better than other methods (cough*schools*cough).

So what’s up with this new report? Can 173 studies be totally wrong?

Well, if you look closely at the results of the report – its key finding is about the hazards of immobility: the couch potato syndrome.

As one reporter jokes: “Basically, these researchers found if you sit on the couch all day, moving little but your thumbs, you won’t get the proper amount of exercise. I ask you: Did it really take a three M.D.s to figure this out?”

Joking aside, is there anything we can we do about it?

Even the most charming kid-friendly president in modern history won’t be able to convince kids to give up their favorite pastime.

That would be as pathetic as Don Quixote fighting with wind-mills.

So how are we going to liberate children from the screen without losing them?

My answer is simple: give them reality experiences.

Let them rediscover the fun in playing and learning in the real world. By augmenting the world with what captivates kids in video games:

  • the cognitive challenge
  • the interactivity
  • the participatory
  • and the social activity

Steve Johnson explains in “Everything bad…”:

“video games…tap into the brain’s natural reward circuitry…to get kids to learn without realizing they’re learning…”

The technology to enable these new kind of reality games has been around for sometime. The techies call it augmented reality. For the rest of us – it’s just a new way to experience reality, to experience the world.

Every revolution needs a spark to light up. Sparks are mostly based on fear or hope.

The NIH report may have provided the spark for the augmented reality revolution, spurring a combination of both fear and hope for a better world.

One Response

  1. […] Parents always knew it in their gut – but now, it’s scientifically proven – thanks to a mega study of 173 other studies by the National Institution of Health which  concluded […]

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