Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sumo wrestler, smash that TV

Before a sumo bout gets underway, the protagonists go through a time-honoured ritual of crouching and thumping the ground loudly with their feet. Sonny hasn't actually seen any sumo fights, not even on television - yet he is often to be found enacting the ground-thumping.

Of course, since the little fella is only a week or so into his fifth month, and can't even stand unassisted, he doesn't really run through the whole process in the approved manner. But as he lies on his mattress, he will raise his foot and stamp it with startling authority and seriousness. Were he to put on a few pounds and be kitted out in a fancy loincloth, some folks might be willing to swear that he must have been studying sumo tapes using a VCR.

The assumption underlying all of this, of course, is that television programmes are the primary model for infant copycatting, outside of parental example-setting. And there's no doubt that the idiot box has assumed a frighteningly powerful role in 'bringing up' children, offering myriad ways of behaving, speaking, thinking and interacting. Many a parent we know is lulled by the usefulness of just slotting in a VCD or flicking to a cable channel, and having the resultant show hold the otherwise fidgety, fussy child in thrall.

It can be a nasty surprise, we understand, when their precious tots start to evince a disturbing lack of originality in their conduct and speech, but parrot only themes and lines from some yellow-suited, plastic-eyed creature and his ilk. Not that there aren't decent television programmes: It's how kids often unquestioningly imbibe what the boob tube blasts at them that's worrying. Many a year ago, Pa was surprised to meet an English gentleman who refused to have a television in his home, preferring that his daughter grow up in the company of books, fantasy friends and their invented adventures. It seemed an excessive step, but with the proliferation of cable or satellite channels since, and the way movies, television, games and other entertainment media have melded into one all-encompassing shaper of experience, it has sometimes seemed that the only way not to give in is to reject the whole shebang altogether.

Of course, parents can take a exacting middle road. They might exert stern discipline in ring-fencing no-TV times. Also, they might heavily promote other ways of spending time, be it reading, playing outdoor games, collecting stamps or creative conversing (chatting about world events, say). For our money, they might also make a game of inventing ways of dramatising to their children how staring blankly at a television for hours on end can turn their faculties to mush. It should be fairly amusing, and it's certainly true that television programmes can insidiously imprint thought patterns like a mould firmly pressed on soft clay.

Or make that the stomping of a sumo wrestler's foot.


Anonymous said...

It's great when their small isn't. Sometimes I just wish they didn't have to grow up.

I had my liitle girl ask me if she could shave her legs- why don't you shoot me know...


Cloudsters said...

About their not growing up: We're steeling ourselves for when Sonny figures out how to crawl, then walk. The whole house is going to become a mass of landmines then, swallowable or otherwise.