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Real Parents On: Media Overload

I've got a very weird love-hate relationship with media.

On one hand, it's what helps to pay the bills in our household. My day job is in marketing, so I spend all day, everyday glued to websites, email and social media. And then there are my biggest hobbies: blogging and photography.

On the other hand, when I get home, all I want to do is unplug.

  • I'd rather drive in silence than with music most of the time.
  • Movies are not my thing at all...I can rarely stay awake for long enough to finish one and by the time I get back to it, I've forgotten what happened anyway.
  • Computers make me feel constrained, almost held prisoner by all the different types of ways to communicate. Then again, I struggle to not check email and Facebook in the middle of the night, or first thing in the morning.
Like I said, love-hate.

When it comes to our monkey girl, we haven't yet had to make any major policies in the house, but I know the time is coming soon. We struggle with whether or not to buy a DVD player for the car for long trips. We probably won't, but it has been remarkably tempting. Baby girl is fascinated by electronics, and won't settle for toy imitators. We hit the jackpot at a Maryland Radio Shack, where we were able to buy 3 demo phone for her to play with, and I'm always hiding my iPod from her.

sadly, this is not recent. she was about 8 months old here. :)

It was bittersweet though. I'd much rather her play outside or engage in creative play, when the time comes that she can make that choice.

Since we're going to have to deal with it sooner rather than later, I was particularly interested in hearing what our awesome panel of parents had to say about the subject. Filing these away under "things I wish I didn't have to deal with for a few years, but will probably need to consider next week".

Read on to find out what other parents do to help keep their kids balanced.

Kelly H. says:

Unplug and Get Moving!

Yes, there is serious media overload with kids of all ages.  Our 5 yr. old is already hooked to her V-tech game.  Sure it’s “educational” but if I let her do it too long, it’s just more sitting and nothing active.  We try to limit the cartoons to a couple of hours a day.  If I have to get a babysitter or we’re gone to church meetings, etc.  the TV is usually longer for that day.  But I try to get her involved in other things that she really loves, like painting on her easel, playing with toys, and going outside when possible.  One downside to our house is that we don’t have a yard that they can play in.  He have a very steep yard that is nearly impossible to play in.  But both our girls love to dance, so I turn music on in the house and they will dance and be goofy for at least an hour at a time.  My biggest concern about media is what’s actually on TV.  I’m not one who is concerned about censoring.  I believe you should be able to watch whatever you want, when you want, etc.  If there is a program I don’t want my kids to watch, I turn it to something else.  But what really, really bothers me are the commercials.  I’m so tired of having to quickly grab the remote and hope that I get the channel changed BEFORE my girls have seen too many boobs, butts, heard bad language, or seen something violent (like the CSI, NCIS commercials).  It just seems like almost anything goes in commercials these days.

Elizabeth says:

They've Got Rules + They Stick To 'Em

Sometimes I think we should just chuck all the TVs in the house and be completely without any media in the home.  However, my closet addiction to TV and the fact that I like to watch the news keeps me from going all out.  Currently I've been very lenient on this summer's media policies.  Mainly because I've been single parenting it for most of the summer and it's just easier for me.  However, once school starts we'll bring back the no TV on school nights rule.  (this includes the computer and video games.)  In the past we did let the kids use the computer for educational games and WebKinz, however right now only the oldest is permitted to use the computer for Facebook because we found a TON of viruses on the computer and I don't trust that the kids aren't inadvertently downloading something they shouldn't.  Regarding the online networking sites, our rule has been freshman in high school to open an account so we only have one right now to worry about.  They do have to make me a friend and I also have to have their passwords.   The same goes with email. And if I find they're sneaking around then there are consequences and the possible delay in when they can open an account.

Jennifer T. says:

Media as a Reward, Not as a Way of Life

We are probably stricter than most on media.  We don’t own a Wii, we don’t own an XBOX, we rarely watch tv unless it is PBS.  We happen to live in Boston and have not one, but two great PBS stations.  The kids are allowed to watch a couple of PBS shows a day.  As a reward for good behavior and such, they get to play educational video games.  Yeah, we know we are weird, and we are ok with it.  One of our personal favorite sites is www.starfall.com.

Kelly W. says:

They Watch What Their Kids Watch, Read What Their Kids Read, Play What Their Kids Play...

I'm not even gonna lie, our opinions on media have always been more impressive in theory than in practice. When I was in college I worked on a research study where one of my jobs was to interview moms of three-year-olds about their child's tv watching. I was astounded at some of the answers I got and vowed to limit tv drastically when I had kids.  A couple of years later I would be begging my toddler to watch Sesame Street (pleeeease!!!) so I could wash the dishes.

My "rules" have morphed over the years to fit my family. Factors have come into play: my kids' ages, birth order, tolerances, what their peers were watching, ratings, etc. My husband and I don't always agree, and I sometimes find myself being the lone buzzkill in a house full of guys. But we do stay on top of pop culture, are familiar with current media, talk to other parents, watch what our kids watch, play what they play, and read reviews on websites like www.pluggedin.com and www.gamingwithchildren.com.

As far as WHAT my guys consume (the operative word with 3 boys), we generally adhere to movie & video game age ratings.  With a few exceptions (previewed and approved by a parent), we don't allow PG-13 before age 13 and our kids are not allowed M (mature) rated video games.  Or Facebook before 13 (sorry, friends). As far as WHEN they watch & play, it has less to do with time limit and more with timing. During the school year, we just don't have the opportunity with our busy schedule to watch much tv, so quantity isn't an issue. And my guys know what's expected of them first: during the week, all 3 of them have to be done their homework and their instrument practice done before the tube goes on.

It seems to work for us. At the moment, anyway :)

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