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Say yes to excessive TV viewing?

This is the message of a recent op-ed piece by Lisa Pryor, medical doctor and author. The title says it all: “Relax and Let Your Kids Indulge in TV.” She confesses she comes from “a family of screen addicts” who have been “addicted to television, through three generations.” And she offers a potentially troubling revelation: “I find myself passing on to my children the addiction, at a time when this topic has become a focus of parental guilt and judgment.” But Dr. Pryor argues there is no need to feel any such guilt. She believes watching TV for countless hours is fine, even psychologically and socially beneficial – as long as we also enjoy some outdoor activities. In hew view, “there are too many problems in the world worth worrying about for bourgeois parents like me to waste energy and resources perfecting and regimenting our little worlds.”

Dr. Pryor probably uses the word “addicted” in a slightly ironic way. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (of “flow” fame) has warned, however, that “TV Addiction Is No Mere Metaphor” – and explained the underlying neurophysiological mechanisms. There are also many studies linking excessive screen-gazing (like other forms of chemical or behavioral addiction) to an array of diseases (including cancer) and mental disorders. And other studies have shown that bouts of physical exercise cannot offset the negative effects of prolonged sitting or immobility. On the bright side, if you spend too many hours looking at various screens, you may find yourself in a situation where you can no longer worry about all these things. And, of course, there is always a way to conveniently rationalize away any nagging doubts.

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