In an effort to help my children develop a healthy relationship with food, I have encouraged mindful eating. That is why we do not eat with the TV on at home and I had a recent reminder about why this is so important. We were eating at a restaurant with TVs showing footage of the limousine fire which killed five women. I did not want those images seared into my children’s brains and asked the server to please turn it off because it was inappropriate for them to watch. She said she didn’t know if she could because other people like to watch TV while eating. After I pointed out that we were the only customers in the restaurant at the time, she finally relented but said, “I may have to turn it back on when we get more customers.” Fortunately, even as the restaurant filled up, the TVs stayed off for the rest of our meal.
This took place right after Screen-Free Week, an annual celebration to which supports efforts to carve out commercial-free space for children.
The airing of the graphic limousine fire video was not an isolated incident. After the tragedies in Aurora, Newtown and Boston, I became all too familiar with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for Talking to Children About Disasters.
Limit media coverage of the disaster—if children are going to watch media
coverage, consider taping it (to allow adults to preview) and watch along with
them to answer questions and help them process the information. While children
may seek and benefit from basic information about what happened so that they can
understand what is happening in their world, they (and adults) don’t benefit
from graphic details or exposure to disturbing images or sounds. In the
aftermath of a crisis is a good time to disconnect from all media and sit down
together and talk as a family.
It’s getting harder and harder for families to follow these recommendations in our screen-saturated society. For example, a family with young children was removed from a plane after complaining about a violent movie being played on the overhead projectors. The director of the movie even spoke out against the airline showing it unedited for a general audience.
It seems to me they (the family) were well within their rights to request some control as to what their two young children were exposed. As a father of five year old triplets, I, too, would not want them to absorb some of the images we created for my film…Protecting children from things they were never meant to see should take priority.
If you agree, please tell United Airlines to stop showing PG-13 movies on its in-flight overhead screens. Let’s also support mindful eating by turning off the TV so we can tune in to what truly nourishes us and our children.