PBS’s “Sesame Street” Airs Segment with Elmo and “Smarty” the Smart Phone. Almost Every Other Media Outlet on the Planet Reports about Technology Harming Children

By B.N. Frank

A few months ago I was channel surfing while sports coverage was on the 10 o’clock news.  My husband was sitting next to me half asleep.  I stumbled onto Sesame Street.  Elmo was on and he has always made me smile so I decided to watch.  He started talking about his friend, “Smarty.”  Suddenly I felt sick.  I prayed to God that Elmo wasn’t talking about a Smart Phone.

An animated 2-seated bicycle with two Smart Phones rode onto the screen.  One of the phones jumped off and the other one rode away.  Elmo introduced the audience to his friend, “Smarty,” and asked him to demonstrate why he was so smart.  I started muttering obscenities which didn’t surprise my husband.  He asked me to change the channel.

Before that night, I had already read, watched, or listened to dozens of media stories about research that proved new technology was being overused and how this was adversely affecting children as well as adults.  When I saw Elmo with a Smart Phone, my heart sank even more.

The next morning I ran an online search for references to this segment but didn’t find any.  I did learn, though, that the Sesame Street logo is being used to market toy Smart Phones for toddlers

This led to me muttering more obscenities.

I can love technology and still recognize that it’s causing problems – especially with kids.  Over the last 2 decades it’s been heavily incorporated into our public school system.  Now there’s plenty of research that has proven it’s not as beneficial as we were originally led to believe it would be.

It’s also being marketed to kids and their parents for use outside the classroom.  So I guess it’s not all that surprising that Sesame Street decided to get in on the action.  Once upon a time, candy makers made candy cigarettes and marketed them to kids.

Maybe not all children or adults are suffering due to technology being overused, but the numbers are increasing and there is more media coverage every day.  How much longer before we decide to take this more seriously and do something to change this?

The latest news segment (that I’m aware of) about technology harming children was a few days ago: On Point with Tom Ashbrook “When Should Your Kids Get Smartphones? Some Say Wait Until 8th Grade.”  During the interview, many references were made regarding past media stories. They discussed the April 2017 CBS 60 Minutes segment, “Brain Hacking,” which featured an interview with a former Google employee.  He explained how designers deliberately create software and apps to keep us hooked and using our devices.

They also discussed the Silicon Valley employees who send their kids to tech-free private schools and don’t allow their children to use technology much at home.

Reports about these Silicon Valley parents aren’t new.

New York Times 2011: “A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute”

New York Times 2014“Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent”

Other tech employees are now also speaking out

“Nest Founder: ‘I Wake Up In Cold Sweats Thinking, What Did We Bring To The World?'”

OMG.

Of course, now it seems completely “normal” for parents to provide technology to their children.  “Survey: Majority of ‘tweeners’ now have cell phones, with many parents concerned about cost,” states that nearly six out of 10 (56 percent) parents of “tweeners” (children aged 8-12) have provided their children with cell phones, according to a new survey conducted by ORC International for the National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s oldest consumer organization.

Then again many things used to be considered normal that aren’t any more.

If any of this reminds you of what we already dealt with in regard to the Tobacco Industry, you may be surprised to learn that they have still been profiting at the public’s expense for the last decade:

… more than 11 years after a federal court ordered it, tobacco companies will begin running frank ads on TV and in newspapers including the Inquirer to admit their products are deadly.  The companies fought for more than 11 years to weaken and delay the corrective statements requirement.  (Source)

There are also still candy makers who manufacture candy cigarettes.  https://www.oldtimecandy.com/walk-the-candy-aisle/candy-cigarettes

For more links about the adverse effects of technology, keep reading.  Good luck.


ABC Good Morning America“Parents with 2 young kids obsessed with electronic devices get an intervention”

ABC News:“Resources for gamers, parents wanting to break kids’ extreme electronics usage habits”

ABC News:  “How this teen fell into a world of secret sexting, alcohol and drugs”

ABC 20/20“Digital Addiction”

New York Post: “‘It’s ‘Digital Heroin’:  How screens turn kids into psychotic junkies”

The New York Times “Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs With Smartphones?”

Time Magazine:  “We Need to Talk About Kids and Smartphones”

CNN“Half of teens think they’re addicted to their smartphones”

Psychology Today: “Why Social Media Is Not Smart For Middle School Kids”

NPR“Increased Hours Online Correlate With An Uptick In Teen Depression, Suicidal Thoughts”

Fox News:  “Smartphones destroying generation?”

Washington Post:  “Cellphones and unhealthy side effects”

Mayo Clinic:  “Sending Text Messages On Your Smartphone Changes The Rhythm Of Your Brain Waves” 

NPR: “All Things Considered” – How Smart Phones Are Making Kids Unhappy”

The Guardian:  “Teenagers’ sleep quality and mental health at risk over late-night mobile phone use” 

Telegraph UK“Surge in children being admitted to hospital for sleeping disorders with many kept awake by technology”

Apple:  “Apple’s head of design says some people ‘misuse’ iPhones — and it reveals a growing problem for Apple”

Psychology Post:  “Intensive smartphone use may be harmful to our cognitive capabilities, study suggests”

Scientific American:  “Students are better off without a laptop in the Classroom”

NPR:  “Do Laptops Help Learning? A Look At The Only Statewide School Laptop Program”

New York Times: “Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meeting”

Screen Free Parenting: “The Rich Get Smart, The Poor Get Technology: The New Digital Divide in School Choice”

Times Higher Education: “Using laptops in class harms academic performance, study warns”

Collective Evolution:  “Study Shows What Happens to the Brains of Kids Who Use Tablets”

If you’re still reading, misc. links equally relevant in regard to technology and health:

IEEE  publishes study stating that past safety standards in regard to children (done on model heads) for cell phones in haven’t been accurate because they only conducted studies on adult sized model heads.   http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8086149/?reload=true

Bloomberg: “Smartphones Are Killing Americans, But Nobody’s Counting” 

GQ Magazine: “Warning: Your Cell Phone May Be Hazardous to Your Health”

Greenpeace:  “Electronics OEMs Barely Get Passing Grade for Sustainability”

The Nation: “How mobile phone addiction is linked to climate change?” Every time we intend to call, text or look for the updates on social networking apps, we add to the global carbon footprint.

CNN:  “WHO: Cell phone use can increase possible cancer risk”

CBS News: “Does ‘smartphone addiction’ show up in teens’ brains?”

Excerpt from article:  Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles:  What microwave radiation does in most simplistic terms is similar to what happens to food in microwaves, essentially cooking the brain.  So in addition to leading to a development of cancer and tumors, there could be a whole host of other effects like cognitive memory function, since the memory temporal lobes are where we hold our cell phones.”

In regard to children, Dr. Black states, “Children’s skulls and scalps are thinner. So the radiation can penetrate deeper into the brain of children and young adults. Their cells are at a dividing faster rate, so the impact of radiation can be much larger.”

Study:  “Actual or potential effects of radiation enhancing violence and potential homicide”

BBC:  “Parents’ mobile use harms family life, say secondary pupils”

Fabiosa: “Science Confirms It: Parents Who Are Addicted To Their Cell Phones Affect Their Children’s Development”

The Jerusalem Post: “Screen Addiction:  We Are on the Brink of a Smart Phone Health Crisis”


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