I just read an interesting article in the New York Times entitled “Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children” by Jane E. Brody. You can read it here.
I had no idea that they were now giving guidelines for the amount of time children should be allowed to watch any electronic media, including television, hand held devices, video games or computers of any kind. Below is a paragraph from the article.
“Before age 2 children should not be exposed to any electronic media, the pediatrics academy maintains, because “a child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.” Older children and teenagers should spend no more than one or two hours a day with entertainment media, preferably with high-quality content, and spend more free time playing outdoors, reading, doing hobbies and “using their imaginations in free play,” the academy recommends.”
I remember when we decided that our girls needed to watch less television, but with both of us working it was almost impossible to regulate their TV use. One of the girls was having trouble in school, and we noticed that she watched television nonstop, like a zombie. Her attention span was very short.
So I was especially appreciative when Chuck found something called Time Slot. It was a little machine that sat on top of the television that used a credit card system to regulate television time for each child. He heard about it on public radio, and I believe we bought it through the North Carolina Public Television System. You can read an old newspaper article about it here.
For a little over a year the girls were allotted one hour of television a day that they could use anytime they wanted. In other words they could accumulate their hours and watch an entire movie after several days. Chuck and I both had a parent card each, which had unlimited time of television use. They would ask for the parent card when their friends come over, when they wanted to watch a movie with them. As long as this didn’t happen too often it was not a problem.
The system worked well; although there were funny moments. For example the first time Jamie had friends over to watch TV, she forgot how much time she had on her card. All of a sudden during the movie her card ran out, and the television turned off. She said the boys in the room said, “What happened to your TV?” She yelled upstairs, “Mom!” I came down with the parent card and fixed the problem, but there were lots of questions from her friends. Jamie was so embarrassed.
For over a year Time Slot worked like a charm, until their brother Jeff came home from college one holiday and showed them how to secretly bypass the machine. I guess he thought they were old enough by then to watch as much television as they wanted.
After that, they were careful not to let us know how much television they were watching. For a while we didn’t realize that they knew how to bypass it. All in all though there was still the advantage of them watching less television, because they didn’t want to get caught.
Now it seems like my grandchildren are watching some type of media non-stop. We’ve mentioned it from time to time to each of their parents, but I get the feeling they just think we’re outdated.
All I know is this. These are precious little lives, and life is simply a rough draft. None of us get to do it over–not the parents or the children.