Media Rules from a Media Skeptic

February 23, 2012 in Belinda,kids and technology,kids and tv

I love my idea bag to be full. Knowing how other moms handle issues helps and inspires me.

This morning I want you to meet my friend Belinda.  Belinda is busy raising 3 princesses and a very young prince. She is disciplined and wise and you would want her kids to be be friends with yours. 

 I asked Belinda to share something that works for her family. She chose technology. I’ve written about my fear of technology before and about the new email system we are trying. Here Belinda explains her technology philosophy. Don’t forget to leave her a comment to thank her for sharing! 

“Let’s punch Captain Crunch and then we’ll eat his face for lunch…”  This song has been popping up around my house for a couple weeks, ever since I allowed my kids to watch a “Fred” Youtube video.  I confess I don’t really get Youtube, but I never was much of a fan of America’s Funniest Home Videos either, so it’s probably just me.  However, funny videos, computer games, TV and social networking are the reality of growing up in America today.
For me, the computer is a machine, a tool to get tasks done and make my life (mostly) easier.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of times it distracts me from things I should be doing.  For my kids, though, the computer is not a tool but an avenue for entertainment.  I grew up with Saturday morning cartoons.  Now my kids have multiple dedicated cartoon channels to choose from 24/7, plus videos on demand.  I might be called a media skeptic.  Their world is media saturated.
As parents, we walk a fine line between sheltering from and introducing our kids to the greater world.  There’s a part of me that wants to keep them innocent and clueless forever.  But in reality, I would be doing them a disservice.  It’s my responsibility to guide them in making appropriate choices now so they can navigate the world on their own, equipped with a healthy sense of skepticism. 
While my pediatrician recommends no more than 1-2 hours of screen time per day, our standards are a little different, closer to 1-2 hours per week.  Limiting the amount of screen time is our first approach in dealing with media in our family.  My philosophy is that kids should be using their own imaginations and bodies as much as possible.  Twenty minutes of downtime for my 4 year old is plenty.  The older kids just don’t have that much time for TV or computer after they are done with playing, homework, dinner and chores.  We don’t have a hard and fast rule, I think because we don’t need one.  They don’t ask all the time, so I don’t have to set firm limits.
Second, we rarely watch live TV.  This eliminates commercials and the “gimme” mentality they can foster.  It also reduces the amount of time they’re watching a show.  In addition, they are watching shows we’ve judged as ok.  This is trickier with the computer, as an innocent click can lead to all kinds of content that would make adults blush.  We have a two part approach to that issue — make use of parent filter software, and keep the TV and computer in a public place.
Finally, we keep the lines of communication open.  Isn’t this key to most of parenting?  I try to watch shows with them.  I ask them what they think about inappropriate behavior they see on TV.  We talk about what to do at a friend’s house if something is on that makes them uncomfortable.  Our “save face” strategy is that they can say, “I forgot I need to call my mom.”  When they call, I can tell them they need to come home and I can be the bad guy.
As technology evolves, new questions come up that call for new strategies.  For now, I’m comfortable with our relationship with media.  But I have a feeling I’ll be watching a lot more Youtube videos.
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle Ludlam February 24, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I agree! With my 3 princesses, I’m wary of the shows available on TV and the content on the internet. But I do try to monitor what they watch. I only expose them for brief periods on approved websites since they will need the know-how to use a computer as a tool and for learning. I like that idea that if she sees something at a friend’s house that isn’t appropriate, that she could call to come home. I worry about that when I’m unsure if the other parents are as watchful!

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Laura February 24, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Michelle, I agree. After reading Belinda’s idea, I thought, I am going to set up this system with my girls!

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Diana Denis July 28, 2012 at 2:43 am

I wish I had been as thoughtful about tv watching with my girls when they were younger. My middle child is 17 and still talks about the time she was visiting with a cousin (she was probably 11) when they watched a horror movie that still gives her the “creeps”. She never got over it and felt stuck because she was visiting with relatives. Great advise. I’ll save it for the grandchildren. ;o) Thanks for sharing Belinda!

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