10 Childhood Myths Debunked

active children

When I was younger and angry at my mom because I didn’t get my way, I’d make terrible faces at her when she wasn’t looking. Instead of getting upset and scolding me, she merely asked me to stop making those faces or else my face would freeze like that. The scary thing was that she never once turned around. How did she see me? I convinced myself she had eyes in the back of her head. My mom was an alien.

The other day I found myself telling my son not to sit too close to the television. He looked at me as he shrugged his shoulders and sat suspiciously on the sofa with his hands in his lap. Did he know something I didn’t know? I’m not quite sure why I told him to move further away from the TV, except I knew it would ruin his eyes. It’s like I was programmed to say this — I’d heard this myth so much as a child from my own parents, I just took it be true.

Boy, was I mistaken. What other things had my parents or other adult family and friends told me that were misleading? I needed to find out soon, since I found myself repeating these terrible myths to my own children.

Stay Away From the TV

I hated watching TV on the uncomfortable chairs my parents had in the TV room. They reminded me of chairs in doctor’s offices. I loved sprawling out on the carpet and sitting fairly close to the TV. Unfortunately, each time I did this my parents would scold me and send me to the far corners of the room. “Your eyesight is going to get worse,” they lectured. “You’re going to lose your eyesight,” they said. I was convinced. I spent an entire childhood huddled on the sofa, too afraid to even sit on the carpet.

Thankfully, my eyesight is intact and, upon further research, watching the TV in close proximity has no bearing on your eyesight. Apparently, pre-1968 TVs emitted a healthy dose of radiation. Today’s TVs are safe and emit very small amounts of radiation that will not affect your health over a period of time. I’ll have to call my parents and tell them about this. If you consistently find your child sitting too close to the TV, perhaps you should have his eyes checked — he may be straining to see what’s on the screen. Or just forget the controversy altogether and have the kids play outside.

Blow Dry That Hair

I often go outside with wet hair. People snicker when they pass me by with my wet hair on the few days out of the year when it is cold here in South Florida (a bitter 60 degrees). My parents often told me that I was going to get pneumonia because I was going outside with wet hair. My mother-in-law still tells me the horror stories of children and adults alike coming down with terrible colds all because they braved the cold with wet hair. “This could’ve easily been prevented,” she tells me.

The combination of wet hair and cold weather has no bearing on whether or not you get a cold, flu or pneumonia. Colds are caused by viruses. The only way you can get a cold is if you come in contact with a virus. Since germs and bacteria frolic in cozy, warm environments, it’s easy to come in contact with the cold virus inside a house being pumped with heat during the winter time. In the spring and summer, it’s just as easy to get cold during these seasons because of the humidity and warm air.

You’re Setting Yourself Up for Abnormality and Pain

My parents’ godson used to crack his knuckles all the time. He used to love cracking them right next to my ears because he knew how much the sound made me cringe, like nails on a chalkboard. My dad caught him doing it one time and lectured both of us. “Stop doing that,” he said. “Do you want huge knuckles or arthritis?” By the tone of his voice, you’d think the Apocalypse was coming.

When you crack your knuckles, the sound you hear is actually microscopic bubbles of carbon dioxide popping. However, your fingers don’t elongate and your knuckles don’t grow to the immense size my dad described to me years ago. Age, genetics and weight play a big role in the arthritis department. Cartilage wears down as we age, and if you carry a lot of weight, this can also wear down your joints, but there have been no conclusive studies that cracking your knuckles will lead to arthritis. So keep cracking, if you must, but stay away from me.

Don’t Make Me Rub This Toad All Over You

I remember someone in my fourth grade class finding a frog during recess, although he insisted it was a toad. He brought it into the classroom and Mrs. Wild’s eyes grew big as he threatened some poor girl that he would give her warts by rubbing the toad on her face. She screamed and Mrs. Wild sent him to the front office. I have not been near a frog or toad since then, not that I have any reason to go searching for them anyway.

Caused by viruses, warts are an irritating skin infection at best. Just like any germ or bacteria, these wart viruses love moist and warm environments and breed heavily there. You can’t get a wart from touching someone who has one, but you can get it by coming in contact with the virus.

Although some species of frogs and toads have bumpy, wart-like textures to their skin (which are glands that help them live on land), they are certainly not warts. Go ahead, I dare you to touch a frog. Just make sure it’s not poisonous.

The Seven Year Ingestion

I used to love gum, and for whatever reason, there were plenty of occasions where I swallowed it. Kids around me would laugh and tease me, saying that the gum would be in my stomach for at least seven years. That’s an eternity! What was I going to do?

Gum, like any other food, gets broken down in our stomachs through acids and broken down even more in the liver and pancreas. If it isn’t used for fuel, the remaining food bits are broken down into waste. There is no seven year time frame to gum surviving in your stomach.

Beware the Pool

I’ve been to many swimming pool parties where the moms insist on having the kids swim first and eat later so they don’t get cramps.

Eating before you go swimming will not cause you to have cramps. Eating while swimming, however is a different story — you can choke. Wait until your food begins the digestion process, especially if you had a particularly fatty meal and you plan on swimming Michael Phelps style.

Doing This Could Be Bad for Your Health

I used to stand in front of my mirror and make faces all the time as a kid. Someone told me that if I crossed my eyes, it would stay that way. I’d spend a few minutes trying to keep my eyes crossed for as long as I could, but I always failed because my got so fatigued and I felt dizzy. I was not a smart kid and obviously had too much time on my hands.

Your face cannot freeze into any particular shape, especially silly faces like pulling your eyes back and sticking out your tongue or crossing your eyes. It’s just not possible.

Put On the Lights

My bedtime in grade school was always 9 PM. I never fell asleep at 9, but I had to be in bed by then. Since my parents were always downstairs watching TV, I would open up my blinds to let the moonlight stream in and read quietly in bed. I’d strain to see what I was reading, but I continued despite this small obstacle. Unfortunately, my dad caught me on several occasions and demanded that I go to sleep. “You’re going to damage your eyes and go blind. Do you want that?” I’d always shake my head no, but as soon as he closed the door, I went back to reading by moonlight.

I still have perfect vision today. Reading in a dimly-lit room will not make you go blind. Dad, I’m sorry to have to break it to you. However, it will cause your eyes to strain and they’ll become heavily fatigued. Make sure you read in a well-lit environment to prevent this.

I Have X-ray Eyes

My parents used to make me eat a lot of carrots because they believed my eyesight would become stronger than my already 20/20 vision. “You know how Popeye eats spinach to be strong? Bugs Bunny eats carrots to see better,” my dad declared. Really? I never noticed that Bugs’ eyesight improved in any of the cartoons I watched. It seemed to me that Dad’s good friend Bugs Bunny ran into quite a lot of stuff.

Although there are many benefits to eating carrots, they will not improve your eyesight. They will, though, help to maintain your eyesight through the help of Vitamin A. In World War II, British forces wanted to conceal the fact that they were utilizing RADAR, so a rumor began that the Brits ate a lot of carrots to give them better vision and see the German warplanes and tanks better.

Stay Away from Starbucks

When my dad would be working in his home office, I would sneak into the kitchen and fill a cup with hot water from the kitchen faucet (dragging a chair over to the sink since I couldn’t quite reach it as a child). I’d bring it over to the kitchen nook, open up the bottle of Nescafe and add a spoonful of instant coffee to the water. I’d also add about four spoonfuls of sugar and a lot of milk. By the time I was done, I had to stoop over the cup on the table and sip it since I couldn’t lift it and sip it without spilling sweet coffee all over the place. Since I’m one of the shortest people in my family, my dad always tells me that I’d be a lot taller if I didn’t drink all that coffee as a kid.

Coffee has no bearing on your growth rate, although the effects of caffeine can cause your child to be hyper and then crash soon after. Heavy caffeine use also prevents calcium and other nutrients from being absorbed.

Well, I need to have a long conversation with my parents. . .

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