The Perfect Storm – We are Destroying Children

Dear Editor,

I love the irony of locating Hayley Mick’s Tot Terror story directly above Siri Agrell shocking dialogue of Bully: Scholarship Edition videogame in Tuesday’s Globe Life section. One doesn’t have to think too hard to figure out what little Cory is so afraid of! While I don’t know Cory specifically, my work with children, parents and teachers in the capacity as a pediatric occupational therapist and lecturer has uncovered that many of our children play extensive violent videogames, as well as watch violence on TV – news, movies, reality shows, hockey… But not to worry, because your article reports that if little tots get scared, Dr. Minde will just drug 10% of them…even though “there is limited research into their effects on young minds and a lack of clinical guidelines”. Maybe it’s finally time to step back and look at the salient causal factor for why our little guys are scared…the explosion of technology.

In the 70′s 0% of children were on psychotrophic medication, now a whopping 15%! In the 70′s kids also played outside all day, running, jumping, riding bikes, creating forts, playing imaginary games. Now elementary aged children spend 6.5 hours per day plugged into some form of technology, creating an epidemic of childhood TV and videogame addictions which have resulted in a host of mental and physical disorders the health and education systems are only beginning to detect, much less understand. Over 50% of North American children have TV’s in their bedrooms, and the dining room table has largely been replaced by a big screen, vastly limiting essential connection time with parents. From ‘We’ to ‘Wii’, parents are busier than they’ve ever been, and tired when they get home, turning to the Virtual Babysitter for entertainment. Canadian Statistics report parents spend an average 3.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their children. Consequently, we see diagnoses of Autism, Asbergers, ADHD, Fetal Alcohol/Drug Syndromes, Anorexia/Bulimia and numerous “disorders” (Bipolar, Reactive Attachment, Sensory Processing, Developmental Coordination, Anxiety, Separation Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive, Oppositional Conduct) incrementally rise, overloading the school and health systems. Literacy and academic performance levels are dropping, causing immense concern by parents and teachers as they struggle to cope.

Looking to Canadian Education and Health Ministries, as well as our Universities for guidance might be the answer. Teachers need more training and clearer directives and strategies to manage these children, both behaviorally and academically, requiring preliminary university research and liaison with government and schools. Government really needs to recalibrate curriculum requirements for today’s developmentally delayed child. As gaps in performance widen, so should the goal posts for expectations. Recent initiatives of adding playground equipment and increase are definitely a start. Health and Education Ministries should join together to form initiatives to assist teachers and parents in TV and videogame reduction strategies.

In conclusion, if we take rising mental and physical disorders, combine this with new and improved violent videogames and addictions, add un-researched psychotrophic medications with unrealistic curriculum expectations, we have all the necessary ingredients for The Perfect Storm…a storm of epic proportion that could destroy our children. Socrates once said “Could I climb to the highest place in Athens, I would lift my voice and proclaim: ‘Fellow citizens, why do ye turn and scrape every stone to gather wealth, and take so little care of your children, to whom one day you will relinquish it all?’” Children are our future, and there is no future in virtual reality.

PS – Cory’s parents should consult a pediatric occupational therapist regarding possible tactile sensitivity (needs to separate food).

Cris Rowan, BScOT, BScBi, SIPT
CEO Rowan Training Systems and Zone’in Programs Inc
6840 Seaview Rd
Sechelt, BC V0N3A4
604-885-0986, 604-885-0389 fax, 604-740-2264 cell
websites: www.zonein.ca