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.
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?
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.