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Where have all the parks gone?

TV is terrible but you should see some of those kids in the parks. They might addle her brain far more irreversibly, writes Soumya Bhattacharya.

india Updated: Nov 22, 2009 00:00 IST
Soumya Bhattacharya

Another week, another survey.

A study done in Australia found in frightening detail how bad TV is for our children. It recommended a blanket ban on watching television for children below the age of two; it said that children should go out to the park and play; and it also suggested that while having their noses in books may not be as bad as TV, it would still be less helpful than sweating it out in the open air.

Now did you need a survey to tell you how awful TV is for our children? At first, it seemed to like one of those surveys.

You know, smokers are less likely to get Alzheimer’s (no, they won’t, because they’ll die before they get old enough to suffer from it). Drinking is good for your heart (oh, yes, because your liver will be terminally wrecked before your heart begins to wobble). Afterwards, though, I thought about the findings, and looked at them in a new light.

If you lived where I do (in a tiny flat in Mumbai), you’d think twice about all this.

There is no proper play area downstairs, only a strip of concrete driveway where she rides her bicycle. When we first moved to Mumbai nearly five years ago, we took our daughter, then three, to parks nearby. Some of the parks were travesties. In the ones that were acceptable, there were queues to get on to the swing.

She went to ballet, which Oishi enjoyed and was good at, and it was exercise, sure, but hardly in the great outdoors. We took her swimming to the club, and let her run around its park and garden, but the traffic being what it is in this city, that turned into a weekly adventure rather than a daily dose of outdoor exercise.

No parent (particularly ones like me who grew up in the pre-TV era) is unfamiliar with how evil television is — and, especially, the especially vile programmes that run on what masquerades as children’s TV nowadays.

The telly makes children obese, indolent, violent, we all know; it shrinks their attention spans; it turns them into morons.

But then, what’s a parent like me to do?

I’d think — and I know I am likely to be in a minority of one in thinking this — that it is better to let her watch National Geographic and Discovery and sport. It is immensely better to let her indulge in the pleasure of reading, to teach her to appreciate painting and painters, to allow her to watch movies on DVD, and to show her how to derive delight from listening to music.

I’d think it’s very fine to let her be a person of the great indoors.

TV is terrible, but you should see some of those kids in the parks. They might addle her brain far more irreversibly.

The great outdoors? Well, being there is a terrific idea, but it's not as though we live a hop away from Kensington Gardens.