Offset District Budget Cuts by Turning Off Your TV

The Mehlville School District is settling the final list for millions of dollars in budget cuts, none of which are unnecessary items. Cuts like these can be scary for a parent because of the damage they might have on their child’s future. However, if you are an informed parent, you can make up some of the difference with a negligible amount of effort. Simply turn off the television, video games and Internet.

Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies by everyone from the American Medical Association to the American Academy of Pediatrics have been harping on this issue for decades, but little of it has been seriously considered by the typical Mehlville family. Such was the case with mine until I met a passionate man named Lt. Col. Dave Grossman.

Michael Ocello, a wonderful friend of mine, strongly encouraged me to attend Grossman’s conference on school violence. I did, and it was a life-changing event. To make a long story short, my oldest son went from the possibility of a life on medication and an I.E.P (Individualized Education Program offered through the Special School District) to a fourth grader on the Blades Elementary Gold Honor Roll.

Of course, he is still a young boy and does many of the things young boys do, but his anger has decreased, his grades have increased, his body weight has normalized and all-in-all, he is a happier child than before.

Why the change in behavior and performance in school?

Over the summer, my boys were not allowed to play video games, watch television or play on the Internet after 10 a.m. It was tough for a week or so, but after a while they didn’t care and were often out the door before nine in the morning— rain or shine.

By the time they returned to school after summer break, they were used to getting up early, had nice tans, blond hair, were well rested and quite frankly, the healthiest they had ever been. Getting used to the structure of school took a few days, but after they did, my oldest son went from an educational concern to a relatively focused straight-A student.

It’s in the brain.

There is nothing special about the circumstances of my son. By playing with him often, he knew his abc’s and could count to 30 at a young age, but it didn’t result in good performance in school. Starting in first grade, teachers made suggestions that we may want to have him “evaluated,” which is code for “get him on medicine quickly because he is resting on his laurels.”

What does medicine do? It changes the chemical structure of the brain. Do you know what else has been proven to change the chemical structure of the brain? Television and video games, especially when reinforced with sweets and other goodies. Brain scans and other medical evidence are overwhelming, but people know little about the negative, sub-conscious effects of modern media.

Gloria DeGaetano, co-author of Stop Teaching our Kids to Kill tells it like this: “…in the depths of their beings they are much smarter and creative than the TV they watch or the video games they play. They can be in control of their visual entertainment. It doesn’t have to control them.”

My son has recognized the benefits as well. He even tried to give me the credit for his sudden improvement. “It’s because of dad’s rules,” he said to his mom. But I was quick to redirect him and let him know that I can make all the rules in the world, but ultimately it is up to him to make the decision to focus and work hard in school. His grades are his and his alone. I’m just here to help where I can.

The lesson learned for our family has been that in these lean times, the Mehlville School District can only do so much. However, there is something an engaged and informed parent can do. Simply turn off your television and use the money you would have spent on video games to buy them a good book?