Screen Time!

I guess this post must begin with a full disclosure statement.  I love TV.  I was the only person I knew who had a TV in her room in college.  Our TV used to have a sticker on it that proclaimed, “Television Loves You!”  And I watch TV.  I enjoy TV.  TV is…  well…  it’s a longtime friend, sort of like books, only less smart sounding and probably not as good for my brain.

So that brings us to the kids and TV.  They don’t love it like I do, but they enjoy a dose everyday, I will admit.

You know, I'd forgotten how cool this show is.

Lately, they’ve been watching The Wild Thornberrys, which is now on Netflix Streaming.  I really like this show, so much that I watched it occasionally during its first airings, back when I had no children, but (like now) was drawn to enjoying media intended for them.  As I made dinner and the show started, Mushroom dashed into the kitchen to tell me that they were in “America.”  I asked where exactly and he dashed back to the living room.  When I got there, they had backed up the show to see and then hit pause on the map.  When they discovered it was South America and Eliza and company were near the Amazon in Brazil, they were thrilled.  Our co-op did “jungles” earlier this year and we read several books about the Amazon Rainforest, plus we enjoy the zoo’s Amazonia house.

Not every show can be that educational, though we do enjoy a lot of TV that I consider really educational and well done.  The kids watch The Magic School Bus and Bill Nye, the Science Guy for science, we’re starting to watch some of The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Histeria, and Horrible Histories for history.  But even when a show isn’t educational, sometimes, it sort of is.  The other day, Mushroom knew a geography trivia question because of Phineas and Ferb.  They rightly related Buddhism to some of the ideas on Avatar: the Last Airbender.  And when I think back, would I even know who Mozart and Beethoven were if not for The Smurfs?

Completely gratuitous picture of David Tennant for your viewing pleasure.

And then there’s the bonding of screens.  Mushroom and BalletBoy seem to think of video games as a joint affair much of the time.  They’ll play potentially multi-player games as a single player and trade off.  Must be a twin thing.  You should have seen how they loved showing the husband every single episode of Avatar from penguin sliding to fiery comet ending.  And then there’s our family show, Doctor Who.  (I’m dying for this season to start, by the way.  River Song, cowboys and a cross-USA trip?  I’m there!)

When you talk about parenting, one of the issues that inevitably comes up is the question of screens and screen time.  It’s not just TV in our house, of course.  The kids have DS Lites.  We have a Wii.  And I think you can guess we have computers.  The kids even have their own (though it’s the husband’s old one).

There are a lot of parenting issues where I respect other choices, but I do believe I made the choice that is the absolute right one.  I respect your right as a mother not to breastfeed or to tell your kids what to wear when they’re old enough to do their own shopping.  If you’re my friend, then let’s just not talk about those things.  Because in all honesty, I think that the choices I’ve made – to breastfeed exclusively when the kids were babies and to let them pick out their own clothes now that they can – are the right ones.  You’re wrong, I’m sure, but hey, it’s your life.  But screens is a case where I don’t know what the right answer is.  I’m not persuaded by any sort of evidence that TV or video games are harmful.  But hey, maybe I’m wrong.

Like most things in life, it’s part of that balancing act.  When the kids were younger, it was easier to get them to balance on their own.  I set them loose on the TV and let them burn themselves out over a period of about two or three weeks, after which for the next two years, they didn’t really try to overindulge on it again.  But now there are so many more ways to use the screens.  Sometimes they limit themselves, but not often.  So I limit it.  Screens in the morning before I drag myself out of bed and screens in the evening to help us all decompress.  But in the middle?  Well, that’s time for school, for our plethora of activities, for play, for outdoors, for friends, for art projects and board games.

So I can only hope that’s right.

17 thoughts on “Screen Time!

  1. You must have it about right – – – I have found it astonishing that in the mornings, after about 30 – 45 minutes, both guys are ready to turn off the screen. They seem to “know” when enough is enough, and don’t find it interesting or routine to have the teevee blaring in the background all day long (as in many American households).

  2. I consider the time my kids watch TV or play the Wii while I sleep in to be one of my biggest rewards for successfully getting them through toddlerhood. I’ll have to tell them to check out the Wild Thornberries (I won’t check it out; I’ll be sleeping); mine seem to have similar TV tastes to yours (it’s all Avatar and Phineas and Ferb around here these days)

  3. LMAO @ Gretchen 🙂

    My kids (esp LBB) could totally veg out in front of the TV and never look away. He’s never ‘sitting’ and watching TV, but when it’s on, it has ALL of his attention – so I limit and outright ban it quite a bit. But we do enjoy TV as a family, and I don’t count media use during school (or for school-related purposes) as “TV time” – and we use media at least our fair share.

    I say rock on with your bad self 😉

  4. Our tv is on quite a bit, and having it on so much sometimes makes me feel like we watch too much. Though I have noticed mostly it’s just background noise. The tv will be on while my daughter is playing in front of it. It doesn’t have all her attention but she’ll occasionally sit up and watch it for a bit and then go back to what she’s doing. Lately I’ve just tried to make the point of turning it off for a bit while she’s playing and especially when she leaves the room.

    Anyway I like your tv philosophy. Also my family loves Phineas and Ferb too.

  5. I feel mildly guilty about it, but I’m *yearning* for the day when my 15 month old finds TV interesting enough to get happily absorbed in a half-hour show while I take a shower, or speed-clean the house without “help,” or just sit in a room by myself and decompress! It was such a relief when my now-5-year-old finally hit that stage (around 2). On the other hand, I really hate commercials. For now, PBS shows on a DVR have been fine, but when my older one starts wanting to watch other things we’ll probably have to renegotiate everything. I’ll have to look into this Netflix thing I keep hearing about…

  6. I don’t have children yet, so I’m sure I’ll have to negotiate those decisions when I come to them. But I did feel better about my own TV watching after reading this book.

    The idea is that we shouldn’t focus exclusively on the subject matter of TV or video games– Even the “lowest”-brow of these has increased dramatically in complexity of story lines and mental activity required of the viewer, and the author doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that our standardized intelligence tests keep having to be re-standardized due to a continual upward drift. For example, they had to change the tests of spacial intelligence after Tetris came out!

  7. We have about the same attitude with television and other screens.

    I had completely forgotten about the Wild Thornberries. I LOVE that show (watched it with my now almost 17 year old). I will definitely have to get the kids watching it on Netflix.

  8. Great post.

    My husband and I watch a lot of TV and love it. But we don’t allow our kids to watch just yet, and that has worked for us. We’d like to make watching a movie for the first time a special rite of passage when each child turns six. But I can see both sides, for sure.

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