Have you read Salt, Sugar, Fat – How the food giants hooked us? It changed the way I look at food. Heart problems, diabetes, obesity, and chronic pain have increased due to our consumption of processed foods – foods that have been “…cooked, canned, frozen, packaged or changed in nutritional composition with fortifying, preserving or preparing in different ways” (eatright.org). Our parents and grandparents were raised on scratch cooking. That was when women stayed home. In the 50’s, when women started to join the workforce, time was scarce and convenience was a commodity. That’s when food started showing up in boxes and cans. Salt, sugar and fat was added to improve the taste and the aforementioned health concerns entered stage left, right, front and back.
I am currently reading Growing Up Social by Gary Chapman (the Five Love Languages author) and Arlene Pellicane. Kids used to play outside. Now they’re in front of screens (TV, video games, computers, phones, etc.). ADD and ADHD were rare until about three decades ago, and due to the rise of technology, they’ve become more and more prevalent. Additionally, kids are struggling with social problems, relational problems, and companies are having to train young college graduates how to focus on tasks and do them well. In one study, “researchers found that workers distracted by email and phone calls suffered a fall in IQ more than twice of that found in marijuana smokers” (Christine Rosen, “The Myth of Multitasking”). “The attention a child brings to a video game is unlike the concentration they need to succeed in regular life… a child can pay attention to a game fueled by frequent changes, constant rewards, new levels, points being racked up, and boosts of dopamine to the brain. When a child’s brain grows accustomed to that fast pace, no wonder the real world becomes underwhelming and boring” (Growing Up Social, page 102).
As I learn these things, I can’t help but think of Exodus 16 when the Israelites were wandering in the desert, tired and hungry. God provided manna, a white food that tasted like honey. They were to gather only what their family needed for that day, with the exception of the Sabbath, when they could gather two day’s worth beforehand. If they got greedy and gathered more than directed by God, the food rotted.
This is the conclusion I’ve come to – indulgence is our problem. There’s nothing wrong with salt, sugar, fat, wheat, eggs, beef, TVs or computers in moderation, but problems arise when we indulge. The Bible says we can drink, but we can’t get drunk. Canaan was the promised land of milk and honey, but if we indulge in either, we’ll gain weight, and our triglycerides and cholesterol (and most likely, other things about which this Children’s Minister isn’t knowledgeable) increase. There’s nothing wrong with TV, computers, video games, smart phones or the like, but if we indulge, our relationships, finances, health, and physical fitness, to name just a few, will suffer.
Parents, I want to stress that I am not suggesting you cut out any of these things, but your children are young and immature. They won’t make responsible choices on their own. You have to establish those boundaries for them. I’ve heard some parents say that for every hour of homework or reading, their child gets an hour of video games, but the older they get, the more homework they’ll have. Instead, teach your child to spend time in rewarding activity – homework, reading, exercise, time with friends and family, etc. I also want to stress that you and your spouse must set the example. You can’t tell your child to go outside while sitting in front of the TV yourself. Readers are leaders, but if you don’t lead by example, your kids won’t follow.