“Mom, I’ll put away the dishes,” my 7-year-old says to me.
“Wow, what a doll you are, I say.” The proud thoughts swirl. He’s learning responsibility. He’s taking the role as the big brother. He sees that I have other jobs in the house and he wants to contribute. I’m making a nice boy out of him, I think.
Then he says: “If I can play Whizzball on your computer.”
Whizzball, for those of you who don’t know, is a game on Discovery.com. There are worse games, I’m sure. This one he learned at school. But everything I want my kid to do–chores, clean up, help with his younger sister–all depends on how much face time I’m going to give him with electronics.
In her new Huff Post column Parentlode, Lisa Belkin writes about kids spending more time with screens than books. Studies say:
In a typical day, one in 10 (11%) 0- to 8-year-olds uses a smartphone, video iPod, iPad, or similar device to play games, watch videos, or use other apps. Those who do such activities spend an average of 43 minutes a day doing so.
Forty-three minutes a day? Uh, yeah, that sounds about right. And that doesn’t seem so outrageous! My kid only plays Wii on weekends (LEGO Star Wars III The Clone Wars is his new fav)–unless he’s got a playdate. Then I give him 30 minutes. He isn’t allowed near the computer until he’s done with homework and chores. He’s an avid reader–so avid that we have a on-going guessing game about what page he’s on in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Yes, that’s right. My almost 8-year-old reads Harry Potter. Forty-three minutes with electronics seems tame!
The problem, according to the studies, is that the older they get, the more electronics they’ll be sucking down. Belkin writes:
That gap gets higher as children get older. Researchers report that up to age 8, the average child spend an hour and forty minutes each day watching TV or DVS, compared to “29 minutes reading or being read to, 29 minutes listening to music, 17 minutes using a computer, 14 minutes using a console or handheld video game player, and 5 minutes using a cell phone, video iPod, iPad, or similar device.”
So what does this mean? Do I bargain or do I shut it off? Or do I say screw it to all the research and subscribe to moderation? What are we talking about here? 43 minutes is just over the amount of a single episode of Tom and Jerry. And as long as he’s playing soccer, kickball, baseball and all of the other activities that my son takes part in during the average week, then can’t I reward him with Whizzball or worse, Scooby Doo? I watched a tremendous amount of television as a kid. Does anyone remember watching It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World? Heavens.”Momma, it’s Sylvester, your baby is comin’ to get you!” I mean, that was my entire Saturday morning. Ethel Merman screaming at everyone on the side of the road. Okay?
Sometimes I feel like these studies are good bookmarkers. As in, okay, this is what kids are doing. Good to know. Don’t go over the line. Don’t creep into a place where this is all they’re doing. A yellow flag.
Where are the studies on moderation? That’s what I’d like to know.
How much time does your kid spend on television, computer, video games during the week?
While you think about this question, I leave you with Ethel Merman and Sylvester (Dick Shawn). One of the funniest movie scenes ever.