Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Raising kids who love TV

Welcome to the October 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Technology

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about their families' policies on screen time.

Raising kids who love TV == Hobo Mama
He figured out the remote early.

Hobo Mama wants you to know she's a professional blogger! Look at how professional she's being!

Sometimes I feel sheepish admitting how much I love television. In the natural world, it's decidedly unhippy because children should be playing with only handcarved wooden toys and spending eight hours a day frolicking in dandelions. In the parenting world, it's considered downright reckless, what with the brain rotting and all. And just in regular discourse, TV is too low-brow to impress anybody.

Particularly if you're not all that discriminating about what you'll watch. I will watch many, many different shows — and do. I mean, I watch Masterpiece Theatre, but I've also watched Toddlers & Tiaras. Sam's a big fan of TV, too, with his own favorites; we watch a lot of detective shows together, and he tracks football games on his own. And our children are the same with their beloved shows. Alrik's mantra is "Taillou, Taillou!" (well, that's how he says it!) and Mikko's is … watching whatever is on.

The other day, I was fretting: What does a child look like when he grows up if he loves TV a lot? What sort of person is he if he adores "screen time" and lives great quantities of his life online? What if even his profession is tied to a screen — and then his free time, his relaxing choice, is also to enjoy a movie or show?

Oh — it finally occurred to me: 

He'll look like me!

Well. That's all right, then. I'm pretty fine with me.

I think we can get caught up in the "Oh, noes, not screen time!" worries and guilt-tripping and forget that people who love screens can be quite good people — people with ambitions and hobbies and social lives. People who spend time outdoors, exercise, and have readable brain activity.

I'm not diminishing the studies that suggest forgoing TV for the under-two set (we aim to do that) and limiting it for kids so they have chances for self-directed and active play (there's a reason there's an "off" button on the set). And I believe in balance — if we get off-balance in our TV-viewing or other screen activities (Kindle apps, Xbox, computer games, checking the smartphone, etc.), I feel it, and I respond. I have one child who self-regulates (Alrik) and will turn away from the screen and onto other play (or sleep) when he's had enough; I have another with a much more obsessive personality (Mikko) who can watch till he, literally, drops. So I distract, and offer appealing alternatives, and get them out of the house and away as needed.

But this post is not about how we're secretly virtuous. We're not — well, not if TV can be classified only as a "guilty" pleasure. I'm not one of those people who says, "Well, at least we don't have cable." Or, "We only stream on Netflix on our laptop; we don't even have a television set." Or, "Oh, we only get educational DVDs out of the library. Occasionally. And watch them after the kids go to bed."

No, no. We have cable, and Tivo (broken at the moment, but still), and On Demand programming through our cable company, and Amazon Prime Instant Video, and season-set DVDs from the library, and a Hulu queue, and you know what — I like it. I like TV. I like that my kids like it. I like that they'll grow up like me with fond memories of shows and a camaraderie with peers who watched the same ones. (Any Punky Brewster fans in the house? Can you sing the theme songs to Facts of Life, Family Ties, Growing Pains, or — heaven forbid — Small Wonder? Did I just get any of that stuck in your head? You're welcome!)

I don't have a doomsday attitude about growing up watching TV, because: I did, starting with Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers and Electric Company (my mom chose afternoon kindergarten for me so I could start the day rather lazily with a meal and my shows) and progressing on to sitcoms and snuggling next to my parents for their primetime viewing. And I feel fine about my brainpower, my family life, my physical health, and my ability to get things done. For instance? I'm watching TV as I write this post. Awww, yeeaaah.

Raising kids who love TV == Hobo Mama

Do you or your kids watch TV? Do you feel guilty about it? Do you think I'm delusional for liking TV — or for admitting it?

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (list will be updated throughout the day on October 8)

  • Has Technology Taken Away Childhood? — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama worries that technology is intruding on the basic premise of childhood - active play in all forms! Join her as she takes a brief look at how play has changed as technology becomes more integrated into the daily lives of our children.
  • Fostering a Healthy Relationship with Technology — Jenn at Adventures Down Under describes her children's love of screen time and how her family implements their philosophy and policies on technology.
  • Kids Chores for Tech PrivilegesCrunchy Con Mommy shares how tying chore completion to iPad privileges worked in her house to limit screen time and inspire voluntary room cleaning!
  • Screens — Without the benefit of her own experience, sustainablemum explains her family's use of technology in their home.
  • Screen Time - The Battle of Ideologies — Laura from Laura's Blog explains why she is a mom who prioritizes outdoor natural play for her kids but also lets them have ample screen time.
  • The Day My iPhone Died — Revolution Momma at Raising a Revolution questions the role technology plays in her life when she is devastated after losing her phone's picture collection from her daughter's first year.
  • Finding our Technological Balance — Meegs at A New Day talks about how she finds balance between wanting her daughter to enjoy all the amazing technology available to her, without it overwhelming the natural parenting she's striving for.
  • Raising kids who love TV — Lauren at Hobo Mama sometimes fears what children who love screentime will grow up to be … until she realizes they'll be just like her.
  • No Limits on Screen Time? Is that Natural? — Susan at Together Walking shares misconceptions and benefits of having no limits on technology and screen time in their home.
  • Screen Time — Jorje of Momma Jorje shares what is currently working (and what hasn't) regarding screen time in her household.
  • Positive Use of Technology with Kids — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her family's experiences with early technology, shares helpful resources from around the blogosphere, and speculates on what she'd do as a parent with young children today.
  • why i will never quit you, TV — How Emma of Your Fonder Heart came to terms with the fact that screen time is happening, and what balance looks like between real and virtual life for both her toddler AND herself.
  • Technology Speaks — Janet at Our Little Acorn finds many uses for technology - including giving her child a voice.
  • 5 Ways to Extend Children's Screen Time into Creative Learning Opportunities — Looking for a way to balance screen time with other fun learning experiences? Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares 5 fun ways to take your child's love of favorite shows or video games and turn them into creative educational activities.
  • What parents can learn about technology from teachers — Douglas Blane at Friendly Encounters discusses how technology in schools enhances children's learning, and where to find out more.
  • 5 Tips for a Peaceful Home — Megan of the Boho Mama and author at Natural Parents Network shares her favorite 5 tips for creating a peaceful home environment.
  • Technology and Natural Learning — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling writes about the importance of technology as a tool for natural, self-directed learning.
  • Babies and TechnologyJana Falls shares how her family has coped, changed their use of, relied on, and stopped using various forms of technology since their little man arrived on the scene
  • Kids and Technology — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis talks about the benefits of using technology with her preschooler, and includes a few of their favorite resources.
  • Using Technology to Your Advantage: Helping Children Find Balance — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy discusses how technology can be used or abused and gives a few tips to help children learn balance.


Meegs said...

I like TV and don't think you're delusional for admitting it. I think my attitude is a little different, because while i love the person i am, i think one think i could improve on is choosing better things over TV sometimes. So i want to allow my daughter some time to enjoy that form of relaxation, while making sure its not the first one she runs to.

(Please don't take my comment as judgement on you, its not! Its judgement on me, if anything!)

Momma Jorje said...

That's a new(ish) and healthy attitude! I grew up with family time surrounding the TV. I grew up with Electric Company, etc. I definitely had the TV as a babysitter.

And I <3 some shows! We only have NetFlix, but do sometimes get shows through Amazon, too. We are big fans of Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and some others.

I think my big problem with TV, aside from Sasha's attitude when she gets too much screen time, is TV during meal time. My husband wants the screen on at ALL hours if he is awake! So even if we're sitting at the dining table, enjoying a meal and all discussing our day - he is distracted. Its a distraction.

Momma Jorje said...

Ugh, I have to admit, though... my laptop is a pretty constant distraction for me - all day.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

Kieran is like Mikko - obsessive. And he gets awful. AWFUL! after screen time. I get that some families are able to balance lots of screen time in a healthy way, but we're not there :/
(Also, I'd probably sit in front of a computer screen and forgo physical activity and fresh air if not poked and brought back to life occasionally, so Kieran comes by it honestly!)

Inder-ific said...

HAHAHA. Can I say how much I love this post? So. Freaking. Refreshing.

Yeah, we have cable, On Demand, AND Netflix and of course, Joe's favorite obsession - YouTube. As an engineering oriented kid, Joe's YouTube obsessions are wonderfully geeky and harmless - did you know you can pull up endless videos of marble runs or dominoes? It's fantastic! He loves it!

Susan May said...

I love what you wrote too! I used to be sheepish about cosleeping when my daughter was little. Yeah, not anymore! Now I let everyone know!

Personally, I've always enjoyed TV and watched a fair bit in my life... BUT I can do without it - especially when it's "just me" (not since having kids!) there are just so many other things to do! But I still love watching shows with my husband and daughter (and son too - although I admit liking my daughter's shows more now that she's 7 and has more mature taste - yeah Disney!)

It's interesting to me how many people want to limit their kids because they feel THEY personally watch too much, or spend too much time on the computer. Very interesting.

Thanks for a good read and a look into your life.

ps this is Susan from Together Walking - no option to sign in from a weebly account. My google account should lead to my "other" blog that is mostly pictures now! :-)

Deb Chitwood said...

I watched tons of TV as a kid, and I think I turned out alright, too. My husband and I really restricted our kids' television time, though, which was especially good because their schedules were too busy for much screen time other than our twice-weekly family movies anyway. As adults, we all enjoy TV in moderation. There definitely isn't one "correct" amount of screen time.

Laura said...

I have to admit that being able to watch full seasons of shows on Netflix or disc is pretty cool--especially ones that have ongoing plots. I generally prefer reading because books usually have the ability to develop more complicated plots than movies, but when you get multi-season shows it is pretty comparable. I really want to go on a binge of watching some new show, but my time is limited and thus I have to prioritize. :P

sustainablemum said...

It has never been part of my life so I don't feel I am qualified to comment. However you are not, as other commenters, have said, trying to impose a limit on your own children because you are worried about your own TV use. Sounds like a very healthy use of TV to me!

Jennifer McMillin said...

Love this! Thanks for being so honest and for not being apologetic about your choices. Oh and I can totally sing all of those theme songs and had a special affection for Punky Brewster. So wanted that treehouse. My husband and I both spend lots of time on a screen and we're both pretty okay people so I reckon our kids will be okay too :)

Joanne said...

Great post, and it's good to see different perspective on 'screen time' other than the all-or-nothing approach.

My family watches a lot of TV, and it makes up the bulk of our family time, but we always discuss things, and although my sister stays up late (2AM on school nights etc.) I am much more like Alrik and will go to sleep when I'm tired. Although, she is much better at multitasking with the TV on, and she is a night owl (she honestly doesn't feel tired even if she was tired during the day), so she would be up the late anyway.

I feel that TV has given me a really good grounding in general knowledge and it hasn't impacted on my sister's, or my studies. We are both A students and she is looking to go to Cambridge.

I wouldn't worry about TV, when it is used actively and with other pursuits and hobbies. It sounds like you have a good balance.

Olivia said...

I love this post and I love tv! I really don't see it as a great evil like some people do as long as you have other hobbies and activities. Just like you, I watched quite a bit of tv growing up and I don't see it as a negative in my life. I have so many fond memories of watching movies or shows with family and friends. My husband and I talk about cutting our cable to save money, but I don't think I'll ever be on board with that (as long as we can afford it) because I would really miss it.

DVR, though, is a doubl-edged sword. It's great because I can easily turn off the tv and do something else because I know I can whatever is on later. But, for the kids, it means they think they should get to watch their cartoons anytime, which is where I have to step in and limit how much they watch. When I was a kid that wasn't as much of an issue for my mother because cartoons weren't on all the time.

Anonymous said...

Love this - We're the same way over here. I do wish that the TV wasn't on so often as background noise. When the husband is away, I try to turn on the radio instead. And I'm guilty of letting the 3 year old watch TV all morning while I nap on the couch until the baby wakes up. But in general, I don't have a problem with TV or other screens. We have balance and, like you, I correct that balance if it gets out of whack. Thanks for this post. I'm sick of obsessing over our screen time as some major flaw in our natural parenting.

Gretchen said...

I seriously didn't participate in this carnival round because we love TV over here too and I didn't have any good ideas on how to put a positive spin on it other than "cartoons are mama's sanity break", lol! Anyways, thank you for sharing :) I am making strides to limit our TV better - a set start/stop time, especially for Jemma, who like Mikko, is a bit obsessive. In her case, less TV equates to a happier demeanor so I have motivation to place some limits.

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