Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fer Cryin' Out Loud...

I opened the Minneapolis Star and Trib earlier this week and came across an article reprinted from the Washington Post entitled, "Kids Living on Screens" with the subtext, "For more than 7.5 hours a day, youth are watching TV, texting and playing video games."

7.5!!! HOURS! A! DAY!


Additionally, the article goes on to say that, not only are kids spending 7.5 hours a day awash in media, but that with the ease of technological multitasking they are actually getting over 10 hours of media packed into that time frame. Leaving, mere hours, of unplugged time.

Here is a direct link to the Kaiser Foundation that undertook the 10-year study cited in the article:

Okay. I understand that there are numerous reasons why this is so. I am no stranger to the pull of visual and technological media (blogging, for example...or facebooking...or surfing the net). I enjoy occasional tv shows and our family has a weekly "chew 'n view" in which we eat homemade pizza in front of a family oriented dvd. Like many parents, I've used the computer or televison as an electronic babysiter. My kids clamor for webkinz time and tv time, (we limit the kid's media mostly to Fridays,) and I somehow gave birth to a child who, given half a chance would most likely jump right in to *more* than 7.5 hours ( I like to think that given free reign (which I've seriously considered), this would taper off, but maybe not). I have often toyed with the idea of getting rid of our T.V. but my husband has not and I would never ever think of getting rid of my computer. Technology, in and of itself is not the culprit and I am grateful for its blessings...but I suspect that a great deal of this has to do with the fact that parents are also spending a great deal of time "linked in." We are busy people and all this technology makes our jobs and daily lives easier. But it shouldn't be our parenting strategy. Or the fallback for our fatigue. Our kids tend to live by our examples and the example our culture seems to be setting is one fraught with unthought consequence.

Life is to be lived. Engaging in the world takes connections with other human beings. Developing the capability to *see* the world and its people and think and act critically about the teeming and complicated lives lived HERE (and by that I mean, on this planet, rather than on your street, though that may be so,) requires interaction. With actual PEOPLE. In my experience, "hands off" also can mean "hearts off." Or at least a buffered heart. One that is insulated from real experience and actual emotion. This buffering leads to an "us vs. them" mentality which doesn't serve much.

Children have always been the world's great free thinkers. Full of creativity and passion, they have the capability of showing us the way forward, when we've forgotten. My kids are forever reminding me how to be open to my daily experience and how to stay fearlessly present in each moment. Hours spent in screen time, often being "told" what to do or think and how to do or think it, tends to obscure that kind of creativity.

Now, I am not you. I don't live in your family. I won't tell you what media balance is right for you or your kids. I am not a scientific expert on children and media. My children are young yet and I have yet to face many issues that parents of older children and teenagers do. But I am a mom and I am troubled by the kids I see that are unable to play creatively. Or by the kids whose creative play contains only the story line of the latest and greatest children's television show or video game. I challenge you to take a closer look at media time. Consider turning off and tuning out for a period of time. Institute an old fashioned family game night. Go skating. skiing. sledding. Visit a museum. Volunteer at a food shelf. The kids may balk a bit, but we all need the kind of connection that doesn't involve a media screen...

The Fischers

muddling along like anyone.

in Minneapolis, MN


I am Allison said...

Wow. 7.5 hours a day. What the heck?

The Fischers said...

Frightening, isn't it?