Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Screen time madness

I consider myself "everything in moderation" type of person.  Yet, when it comes to young children, I am very much anti-TV and anti-electronics. I understand that there are excellent educational programs/games available.  There is time (and place) for everything, including computer games, movies, cartoons and whatever the wonders of technology throw our way.  I just don't feel they are all that important for our children's development or well-being.  So, I have been limiting the kids "screen" time very harshly (compared to other families we know). Here are a few reasons.

1. My kids turn into zombies - truly, a frightening sight.

2. My son (who is 5) watches movies/cartoons at his daycare. I hate this - because I have no control over what has been shown to him. I've brought this up with the teacher, but she says "oh, they are educational videos... and sometimes we have movie days" sounds fine, but that's not the story I get from my son (who, by now, is familiar with all things Disney).

3. *Disclaimer: I know Disney has some excellent movies/animation films for kids.  This is just a vent.*
I hate Disney. It is an evil empire. They are not interested in producing high quality, artistic films for children. They are interested in making money. It is all about what can (or cannot) make profit.  I hate the annoying side-kicks they put into almost all of their films.  I hate the princesses.  I hate the dumbing down of the classic stories (kids are perceptive and smart!  don't treat them like idiots!).  I hate the liberties they take with certain fairy tales ("The little mermaid" with a happy end?  Really????).

4. I love watching my kids play. I love how they can use their imagination. Why put them in front of TV (or hand them a tablet) when they can pretend the table is a carriage... or a house... or a rocket... Way more valuable than anything they can learn from the screen.

5. My kids are young (5 and 3). There will be plenty of time for electronics when they are older.

6. I don't want them to miss out on exploring and experimenting - with blocks, pots, sticks. I want them to know - there is a whole world outside, amazing and beautiful, and it is THEIRS.

Here is what we do and what we get:
Friday is our movie night.  Kids get to pick a video/cartoon to watch (they have to agree on something).  My husband and I try to join them at least for a little bit (usually, I spend this time making dinner).  This is it.  The kids know the drill.  They look forward to Friday night and discuss what movie or cartoon they want to watch.  If our daughter starts asking to see a movie on any other day, our son tells her "Today is not Friday!".  The rest of the week, the kids are content playing, dancing, listening to music and reading books.

Their grandparents are a lot more lenient when it comes to screen time and are usually happy to let the kids snuggle on the sofa and watch some movies.  I am ok with that, but guess what happens...  the moment the kids get inside the grandparents house, they start begging for TV...  Toys, cousins, snow outside - nothing can compete with the magic of the screen.  When we go back to our house - it is back to our normal routine and kids are back to their wonderful, happy, self-sufficient selves.

Sometimes I wonder if we are over-doing it.  Perhaps, if we would let them watch their fill at home, they wouldn't be as screen-crazy...  Maybe, by denying them a "Dora" DVD, we are turning it into a "forbidden fruit" and making it all the more enticing and wonderful...  I guess, like with most parenting issues, there is no right or wrong path and I just have to do my best and follow my intuition.  The intuition screams "TURN THE TV OFF!!!"

Once our third child is born (yes, we are expecting another baby!!!!), I will be staying home with all three kids for a few months.  I have a sneaky feeling the kids will be getting significantly more than one hour a week of movies...  Is there a way to keep two preschoolers occupied and happy all day long without resorting to plunking them in front of a screen... while staying relatively sane and taking care of a newborn? You know, all this electronic stuff is so recent....  Our great-grandmothers managed without computers and TV's (and often had a lot more than 3 kids...).

So, how do you do it?