img_9960I am strict, really strict when it comes to the amount of time my kids spend in front of screens. Anytime I, or others, question my reason for this I think of The Jed Song, also known as the theme song of the Beverly Hillbillies. It is a staple bedtime song in my house. Why? Because it is one of the few songs I have memorized. Unlike my kids, I watched a ton of TV. At six I was interviewed for the local paper and when asked who my hero was I said, not my father like my friend did, no I said “Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise.” When my husband plays Fuer Elise, I don’t think Beethovan, I think McDonalds french fry commercial. A Foldger’s coffee can does not immediately illicit the wonderful smells of my grandma’s kitchen, no my first memory is of the Foldger’s commercial when the big brother surprises everyone on Christmas. The list goes on and it does so because I spent tens of thousands of hours during my childhood, adolescence, young adulthood and adulthood in front of the television. The hardest adjustment I had to make when becoming a parent was not having the TV on all day long. (For the record, I was gainfully employed as a faculty member at a major university, but if I was home the TV was on.) I knew then, I knew before then too, that I was addicted and I wanted better for my kids. Better for me means freeing up their neural pathways to learn actual songs, not theme songs and maybe to even realize that people in their lives who love them are heroes, not imaginary characters from a television show. Now more than ever screens are present in our lives. This is not necessarily bad, but what people didn’t know when I was kid is that neural pathways strengthen and grow if they are fed. Conversely, they shrivel and die if they are not. What we read, watch, and listen to literally alters who we are and who we will be. Sometimes we can’t choose what we are exposed to, sometimes we can. I suppose the question is what neural pathways do you want to strengthen and grow and which would you prefer to shrivel and die? Or put another way – who do you want to become?