Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Your Take on Television and Computer Usage

by Anne Zelenka
I've enjoyed the discussion about Santa Claus and other mythical beings generated by Marjorie's post The Tooth Fairy and Other Lies so I thought I'd toss out another controversial topic for moms and dads to consider: screen time (meaning the TV, the computer, and video games) and your kids.

Jody of Raising WEG doesn't let her triplets watch TV; that's courageous. I am excited to have found a book that (persuasively, I think) argues that video games and TV are not all bad--they can improve the cognitive skills of children and adults. We have fairly liberal screen time rules, but I have a hard time living by them anyway: I blog way more than I'm allowed and with my babysitter out this week, my two-year-old has been introduced to all sorts of shows she never knew existed. I dread when Rose (our au pair) returns and Laura starts saying "I want dragons!" to watch Dragon Tales.

So what do you think? What's your position on TV watching, computer usage, and video game playing? Work of the devil? Mama or Papa's savior? Good as an occasional treat? And why? What's bad about them in your mind? What's good?

And are there any programs or games that you think are particularly worthwhile? I love my nine-year-old's computer game Zoombinis Logical Journey: it's filled with logical puzzles wrapped up in a fun adventure. I think Between the Lions works well for children developing early reading skills. I like SpongeBob SquarePants for its clever humor. The drawing program KidPix lets even preschoolers make fabulous and creative pictures and slide shows on the computer. Those are some of my overall favorites, but I find value in a bunch of others too. Four-year-old Anna has been diligently printing out horses from her My Little Pony PlayPack CD and then cutting, coloring, and gluing them together. It keeps her busy in a productive way. Unfortunately, the theme song for the Little Pony CD seems to be better suited to an insane asylum than a household... which makes it perfect for us.

Share your thoughts!


Blogger Marjorie said...

As an unschooler (homeschooler who believes in natural learning), I recognize that kids can learn a lot from TV. Those on the radical end of unschooling say 'no limits' on anything allowing kids to self-regulate.

Me? I'm one of those people who has trouble focusing if there are distractions. I cannot have a conversation with the TV on -- its a tractor beam that I cannot escape. Thus, I keep the TV off most of the time. We don't have cable so when its on, its PBS. My kids have seen many, many PBS shows -- but we generally try to keep it to a few shows a day. Depends on the day -- we watch far less TV when the weather is nice and we can play outside.

Absolutes? We love Mr. Rogers and tape is every day. Suzanne loves Reading Rainbow.

We did computer games for awhile but I'm generally averse to them -- we've had computer problems in the past so I try not to put any additional stuff on my machine. There are a couple of cool websites with free games -- there is one particularly neat one where you drag each state to its proper location in an outline of the U.S.

6:01 AM  
Blogger SuzanH said...

I've always enjoyed Bear in the Big Blue House for younger kids--it's less frenetic than most kids shows. And Arthur is still a big hit (my daughter is 8). We seldom watch t.v., but when we do, it's usually Arthur.

Oregon Trail is a fun computer game, and the Nancy Drew games are huge in my family.

8:09 AM  
Blogger Anne Zelenka said...

I'm not familiar with Bear in the Big Blue House or with the Oregon Trail and Nancy Drew computer games. I'll have to check those out.

I don't have a problem focusing with the TV on because it keeps the kids a bit quieter than they otherwise would be. For some reason, our household has really increased in volume recently.

I've decided my general philosophy on TV/computer time/video games is this: they have some positive value but can be negative if they squeeze out other things like physical activity, socializing, crafts, chores. I know in my own life the computer can take over and stop me from doing things I need to do, like making dinner or sweeping the floor or attending to a child that has just covered her body in shampoo from my shower.

4:17 PM  
Blogger clanlally said...

Im a technology guy. I thought I would out myself. The good news is that I tend to not LIKE technology. We have a 4 year old. She has a Disney Princess dress up game that she LOVES to play on the computer. But I am not teaching her how to learn computing. Computer is a tool, like a hammer, or a pen. I get twitchy when I hear about school curriculums (ae) that "teach" computer use.

She doesnt get a lot of TV. When we were home together we had a couple of shows we would watch, but we rotated them. Love PBS. Love PBS-Kids and Noggin (see your cable or dish guide). We shy away from Disney...too violent.

She will never have a computer or tv in her room. Only because there is too much for her to get into. That may sound strong but TV and computer is not that critical.

We have a Playstation2. She "plays" a FANTASTIC game called Katamari Damacy...import from Japan. We also played a demo of Lego StarWars which was really cool and really simple...4 buttons to remember. She seems "ready" for that. Games are fun...I try to make sure I expose us to games that the family can play. We have a configuration that lets 4 people play at once. Certain games allow that. Star Wars only 2 at a time but Karen thinks Erin and I are dorks anyway. :)

1:46 PM  
Anonymous chip said...

No tv for 14 years here -- in part due to weird geography, so most of our kids' friends don't have tv either -- and we don't miss it one bit. Kids (14 & 11) are very capable of entertaining themselves; we rent videos to see things we want to see. Overall, while I know there are "educational" things on tv, the bad -- including network and cable news and local news -- far outweigh the good.

Computer: kids were not allowed to use the computer until they were in about 3rd-4th grade. I did a lot of reading on this topic early on and became convinced that it was developmentally a good idea to wait until that age. And believe it or not, despite the fact they didn't start in preschool, they are very able to use computers now.

The one screen we do have to limit is gameboy. My son got one when he was 10. He goes through phases of not playing and overplaying, so we do set some limits when necessary (45 minutes/day total).

A big problem I see with all kinds of screen time is what they replace. Apart from content, if they're in front of a screen that means they're not doing other things, either by themselves reading, imaginative play, or with other kids. I feel like I've actually given my kids an advantage by limiting their screen time.

But that's just me, and I realize every family has different priorities and beliefs on this.

5:16 AM  
Blogger purple_kangaroo said...

We tend to use more videos and little to no TV, both for the kids and the adults, and I'd like to keep it that way. It's easier to control both timewise (built in time limits) and content-wise (commercials and no chance of forgetting to turn it off and having a program you didn't want your kids watching come on).

We try to keep the videos mostly to ones that have some educational benefit--Blue's Clues in Spanish is a popular one right now, teaching both problem-solving and Spanish. I really like, and the kids enjoy, videos that are mostly just music with some visual illustrations--Baby Einstein, BabySongs, etc. Even my 4yo still enjoys those.

The few TV programs we like (JayJay the Jet Plane, Between the Lions) we tape and play back on video or DVD.

We try to limit it to between 30 and 60 minutes of video time several days a week. If I notice we're watching videos every day and the kids are starting to want to watch videos to the exclusion of other activities, I really work on not watching so many for a while. Computer games are pretty much the same--we keep them educational and use them in moderation.

So far, that approach seems to be working well for us.

3:08 AM  

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